I’m a pretty solid left-brainer. I’m organized. Not to a compulsive degree, but close enough. I like things in the right places, dishes in the dishwasher, papers filed, pillows fluffed. My three kids’ diverse daily schedules are color-coded on my iPhone. I’m a slave to the clock.
So you’d think my left-brain would prevail even when it comes to the normally right-brain task of creative writing. You’d think I would break the seal on a fresh package of colored index cards, or open a blank document on my MacBook, and then begin outlining my novel in an orderly fashion – chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene. Wouldn’t you think that? Me too.
But no. When I begin a novel, my left-brain hightails it. It cowers in the shadows, horrified, as ideas come in no particular order, in scattered bits and pieces – a mood, a setting, a moment, a fragment of dialogue. After much kicking, screaming and self-loathing over this disorganized plot-less thing, a well-meaning critique partner might gently suggest that I focus on creating an outline or a story map. Then there’s more kicking, screaming and agony.
But, it eventually happens. My brain – left and right – pulls all the pieces together – the characters, the plot and subplots – and the novel goes where it needs to go. Not in the first draft, certainly, but eventually. This is the inefficient, frustrating, miraculous process that somehow works for me.
So my goal as I trudge through the current torture of this novel-in-progress, is to remind myself to trust my own process. I have to allow the right-brain ideas to swirl in an uncomfortably messy chaotic mush for a while. My left-brain can’t force the ideas into their proper places until the right-brain is ready to give over some control. Though painful, this process will get a novel written. Maybe it’ll even be my best one yet.
What about you? Do you fall in the right- or left-brain camp?
*According to the left-brain, right-brain dominance theory, the left side of the brain is considered to be adept at tasks that involve logic and analytical thinking, while the right side is best at expressive and creative tasks. Researchers have debunked the theory, but, for this post, let’s just believe.
Natasha Sinel is a writer of young adult fiction, represented by Linda Epstein. She lives in Bedford Corners, NY with her husband and three male children. When she’s not writing, she can be found muttering expletives while wiping off toilet seats and bathroom floors. She’s pretty sure that if she were male, she’d figure out how to do the whole thing right.