January 25, 2009

Writing: Left Brained or Right Brained?

Trick question.

Whether writing is a left brain or a right brain activity depends a lot on what you're writing. Most of my blog posts are very analytical (left brain!). I used to get paid to design software, and that writing was way left brained. Writing curricula and lesson plans and making assignments and tests is totally left brained.

Actually we don't have two brains, we just have two hemispheres in our brain, so technically the title should be Writing: Left Hemisphere or Right Hemisphere, or how about Hemispheric Dominance to be more succinct. But even those would be quite simplistic and misleading. Yeah, I'm definitely a left-brained writer.

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to start writing fiction. I do lots of writing already, getting into fiction should be a piece of cake, right? No. It's a totally different animal. I'm a total novice at this but my attempts so far have been quite terrible. My last story was two pages long and it took me about six hours to write. I can do a two page blog post in an hour. Writing fiction is imaginative. You start writing with no clue where your story will eventually end up. Writing fiction is about making up a world and then describing it. The focus isn't even really on the writing – that part is easy – it's the imagining and creating that's hard. This is a very right brain activity. And to me, it's a lot of work.

I can easily get into a state of flow if I'm designing a new accounting system for our school store or writing software to make our DECA attendance easier or designing lessons and putting them into a neat and logical scope and sequence. I can sit down and lose all track of time and totally get into the work. Athletes get into this state of flow during a game, and musicians enter flow performing a challenging piece of music. I guess fiction authors enter this same mental state when they're writing stories, but it doesn't happen for me. Writing fiction feels much different than doing analytical writing. It's work; there's real friction stopping me from just writing. Doing analytical work is easy and effortless; being imaginative and making stuff up is really difficult and not as pleasant. Still rewarding but a lot more work. Maybe it's just because I'm so new at it.

But my right brain isn't dead. I play music and I've acted on stage – both are pretty easy (right brain). Teaching requires real empathy, which I'm good at (right brain).

So is teaching a left-hemisphere activity or a right-hemisphere activity? I love those questions – the kind whose only purpose is to encourage needless and endless debate.

This was a trick question. There's no such thing as left brained or right brained. I have no idea what the point of this post was. I thought I'd have some moral judgment or something at the end, like some mumbo jumbo about how some students are left brained and others are right brained. But since it was a trick question to begin with, I guess I don't have any moral judgments or shocking conclusions today.


Lucy Marie said...

Mostly left brained, but you always need a bit of the right side in too or the kids would be sleeping.

Crissy said...

Intersting, So what would my poetry and rants about thoughts be? a little bit of both? :-) I'm glad that I'm not the only one who writes a blog!!!!!