How can writers become more creative? According a book just out (Thought Revolution by William A. Donius) they can do it by tapping into the non-dominant half of their brain. For the 90 percent of the population who are right-handed, that would be the right hemisphere. For lefties, it’s the left hemisphere.
According to scientists, we have two distinctly different brains – a left brain and a right brain. The left brain controls the right side of the body and is strong in such areas as speaking, writing, reading, reasoning and setting goals. It helps us make effective use of our time and succeed at our jobs. No wonder it tends to be the dominant hemisphere.
But what about the right brain, the one most of us are neglecting? It’s strong in such areas as creativity, emotions, music, artistry, dreaming, problem solving and spirituality. So while the left brain, helps us to hide our emotions, even from ourselves, the right brain helps us to reveal and feel them. When you sense something intuitively, it’s likely to be your right brain talking to you.
So, what can you do to become a two-brainer? According to Donius a key step is to start using your non-dominant hand. If you’re a righty, you can start jotting notes with your left hand and switch your computer’s mouse to the left side. For lefties, you can do the opposite.
Does it work? The book includes a number of exercises. Typically it asks a question and directs you to write you answer with your non-dominant hand. For me this led to no dramatic breakthroughs. But later I tried the lefty approach while I was revising my second Jack Scully novel, Grind His Bones, and discovered that I was seeing things I had missed before and getting more into the feelings of my characters. So I’m going to make it a regular part of my writing routine.
And what about people who are naturally left-handed? They’re already tapping into their right hemisphere. The book encourages them to start using their right hand more. That said, the book does focus most of its attention on righties. Still, in today’s world with all its challenges and distractions, writers can use all the help they can get, and a second brain wouldn’t hurt. It’s a no-brainer.
Some time ago, I did one of those online tests that checks to see if you're right-brained or left-brained. The test showed that I used both fairly equally.
I also trained myself at one time to write with both hands. Don't remember why it was important to me at the time. Now that I do pretty much all my writing on a computer keyboard (other than taking notes or writing shopping lists, or the like), I haven't bothered to keep in practice with my left hand.
Um, left brain right brain is just a myth.
The "only use 10%" is also a myth.
Basically we use all sorts of different parts of the brain based upon the sort of task we are doing. The way to improve our ability is to practice. This cements pathways, allows quicker access to those pathways and better "communication" of thoughts and actions. So if you want to get better at being creative, practice being creative. If you want to write more, write more. Address the reasons why you don't seem to be able to concentrate or focus. I've found that I need to be alone with my thoughts, I can't have the TV on, or the like. I've also found that thinking about scenes prior really helps, so that I've already started writing before I've even sat down. They were my impediments, so you have to find your own.
I have a feeling that Tim's solutions are the ones that work for most of us. At least, I work the same way. If you need to increase emotion in your writing, it helps to have enough empathy to identify with characters. Empathy is a requirement for anyone who writes character-driven fiction.
I'd already known about the 10% being a myth, and had heard recently about the right/left brained thing, so what you're saying makes a good deal more sense to me than the post that started this discussion.
The idea of neural pathways being strengthened by use was brought home to me after my second concussion. There were so many memories I suddenly couldn't reach with ease, but my writing skills were so firmly engrained that the damages didn't stop me from writing. It was fascinating to the observer in me to watch my brain figure out new routes to get to information that was there, but inaccessible via the damaged old routes. (It could take anywhere from thirty seconds to an entire day, depending, for my brain to work out how to get there and return the answer.)
On thinking about it, I remembered that I'd trained myself as a child to write with my left hand in case I ever needed to disguise my identity, lol! Erm, you can probably guess what type of fiction I was reading. I'm not convinced in any way that it had any affect on my creativity.
The illusion of the spinning girl was interesting (second link). I saw it spinning one way only at first, and then realized from the shadow underneath that it was actually going the other way. The brain interprets things based on misleading cues, sometimes. The comments trail was also an interesting read.
Sorry, but that doesn't sound like myth bashing to me. It sounds like the typical grumpy journal entry by scientists ticked off about laypersons talking about things. I'm not seeing much citation there, just overt statements. I seem to remember when I heard about this is college they mentioned studies and experiments that seemed pretty convincing, including many split-brain studies.
I guess the test would be to try this stuff and see if it does anything.
I just linked to the articles that discuss the topics. There is plenty of science on this topic available. I posted some on my blog about the difference between readers brains, people searching the internet and normal brains. The brain scans were amazingly different and showed just how active the entire brain is with various tasks.
Myth #2 in 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology:
And yes, scientists do get ticked off with myths being perpetuated. We do a lot of great work that then gets subverted or ignored in favour of scamming someone out of their money with "training techniques" and the like. There is no need to test this stuff, because it has already been found to be rubbish.
"there is no need to test this stuff because it has already been found to be rubbish"
Now that sound scientific, all right.
You may be interested in this Ted talk on creativity