Right Brain Left Brain - Which Controls Your Writing?

Right Brain - Left Brain

Which Controls Your Writing?

by Shirley Corder

In 1981, Roger Wolcott Sperry--a neuropsychologist and neurobiologist, together with two others, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on the split-brain theory. Extensive research has shown that where we both make use of both right-brain and left-brain ability, we all tend to favour one or the other.

This can show up way back in early childhood, where one child may be logical and well-organised, while the other is a disorganised dreamer. In a family of logical people, there can be pressure on the one child who is predominantly right-brain in his approach to life, to conform to his family and society's mainly left-brained approach. Where obviously the dreamer has to be able to fit into the (usually) organised world where he lives, his brain preference should nevertheless be encouraged.

One of our three children fits this category exactly. He was the dreamer of the family. While everyone else in the class tackled their maths assignment, he stared out the window. He spent several long stretches in bed, due to a couple of unusual illnesses. During his first attack of Rheumatic Fever, he spent nine months in bed. Yet we never had a problem with boredom. He always found new, creative ways to entertain himself.

Without going into complicated explanations, it is sufficient to say that the left-brain is responsible for logic. It is analytical, fact-based, and organised. The right-brain on the other hand is emotional, intuitive and creative.

Writers need the left-brain approach, to be able to turn out manuscripts that readers can understand. But without the right-brain, their work is likely to be dry and uninteresting. So when you're looking for a more creative approach to a story or an article, look for ways to switch your brain into "right-brain" mode.

The traditional methods of making a list, or writing down ideas one after the other, rely on the left brain, using a linear method. These emphasise logic and order which can prevent the flow of way-out ideas.

Put On Your Thinking Cap . . . and other safer ideas.

For years, parents and teachers have been urging their young charges to "Put on your thinking cap." It would appear that scientists have actually developed a “thinking cap”. This zaps the brain with electricity, thus suppressing the left side of the brain, and allowing the right brain to develop. (I've searched for an available photograph to share with you, but without success. You'll have to imagine it for yourself.) I admit I don't like this idea one bit, but I've found a few other ways to stimulate the right brain, without having to light up your eyes.

Here are six ways to put your right brain to work:

1. Create a mind-map. The old way of coming up with a list of ideas was to do just that: Make a list. A far more creative method is to get your right brain to do the work as you create a mind-map. See here for detailed instructions.

2. Sing. Singing is a right brain activity. So if you sing your ideas out loud, you are encouraging your right brain to get involved, which may bring some creative ideas to the fore. (It'll probably bring some strange looks to the fore as well, so I suggest you do this on your own!)

3. Listen to music. Students through the years have tried to convince their parents that listening to music helps them to concentrate. It actually involves their right brain, thus making them more open to new ideas. Experts advocate Mozart for this, but probably any music will work. The trick will be to find something which allows your brain to work, and not shut down because of the sheer volume.

4. Play music. If you play an instrument, think about the issue you want to explore, then sit down at the piano or pick up your guitar, and allow your mind to wander.

5. Draw. Drawing relies completely on the right brain. You might want to draw the problem area, or just doodle on a piece of paper or a chalkboard. As you draw, picture the issue you're wanting to explore, and you may find new ideas filtering into your mind.

6. Write. Without doubt, this is the best way for a writer to increase activity in his/her right brain.

• Establish a regular routine of writing. This trains your right brain to be in charge and not allow the left brain to take over and produce excuses for not writing.
• Write through writer's block. Pull out a fresh piece of paper, or open a new document in Word, and write freely without lifting your pen. If you're a reasonably fast typist you can do the same on your computer. Another name for this is stream of consciousness.
• Write with your non-dominant hand, or even with both hands at once. You probably won't be able to read it back, but it will give your right brain a chance to explore all it likes, as your left brain cannot interfere with this exercise.

How about you? What do you do to kick-start that right-brain into coming up with fresh, creative idea for your writing and marketing? Please share your suggestions in the comment section below.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer, available now at or at Barnes & Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions internationally.

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook.



Writing an Ebook – What’s Stopping You?

Writing Goals, Detours, and Opportunity Cost

1 comment:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I did a quiz from some place and it turns out I write with both sides of my brain. This makes writing and editing so much easier for me than for someone who only writes with one side of their brain. :D