Writing on the Right Side of the Brain

14 Writing on the Right Side of the Brain

The writing and revision cycle I showed you a moment ago becomes much clearer, I think, if we consider what's happening in our brains when we're writing. With apologies to any neuroscientists or psychologists out there, this diagram shows what's happening on the left and right sides of our brains.

[00:00:19] Of course, this doesn't map to the physical brain, but it does help us understand different activities during the writing and revision cycle and what stops us from making progress. So on the right side of the brain, we can be very creative. We move randomly from task to task and use intuition to solve problems, and we can take giant leaps.

[00:00:42] Once we activate the left side of the brain, we start processing information in a linear manner. We're much more analytical. We move in a sequential order and we use logic to solve problems. We can't make those imaginative leaps anymore. So on the right side of the brain, that's what we need when we're creating stuff and getting ideas out. As soon as we unleash our inner pedant and start thinking about whether that's exactly the right word, our left brain is dominant, and it shuts down that creativity. Coming back to the writing and revision cycle, you can see that those first two stages are very much right-brained.

[00:01:24] This is generating ideas, not thinking at all about details. And as we progress, we're gradually becoming more left brained with thinking about the logic of the arguments, considering those smaller details, and then finally focusing on the tiny details. By separating our writing and editing into these stages, we're not trying to use both sides of the brain at once because that's what makes our brain go into spasm. We just don't make any progress, and it gets very frustrating. So remember, you can't write and edit at the same time. Well you can, but it won't be very enjoyable and you're not going to make an awful lot of progress.

[00:02:07] Decide where you are in the writing and revision cycle. So if you're on a zero or first draft your right brained then you want to be creating ideas, not thinking about tiny details. Conversely, if you're on your fourth or final draft, you don't want any clever new ideas. You want to keep focused on those tiny details.

[00:02:29] You can think of yourself as inhabiting different roles. In the early stages, you will be creator or artist, and in the later stages, you are the editor, but don't try to inhabit multiple roles simultaneously.