This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group asked, “How do you balance between your muse and your internal editor? (and/or) How do you make your internal editor work for you, and not against you?” In otherwords, how do we find ways to flip your brain back and forth?
There’s a lot of talk about right-brained and left-brained people where the labels “logical” for the left side or “creative” for the right are assigned. My more Vulcan-esque left side frowns and is confused by the lack of research supporting this split, because in fact, both functions are present in both hemispheres. On the right, the flighty and timid sprite is feeling extra whimsical today so we’re going to run with this analogy. You can even take a quiz if you’re not sure which side you exercise more.
I’ve always loved this gif. She’s got all the grace I lack and she can’t seem to make up her mind about which way to turn. Oh wait… does she only spin in one direction for you? You guessed it… this gif is a quicker test. If you see her turning clockwise, then you’re using more of your right side of the brain and vice versa. Can you make her change directions? Is it easy, is it hard? Do you find it just spontaneously happens or can you make her flip at will?
A lot of artistic types talk about their muse or their characters speaking to them, of being unable to create until that spark of inspiration hits. Others claim there is no such thing and you can train yourself to be creative on demand. Another term that comes up a lot is “internal editor”. You know, that voice that complains when you use the wrong word or says it all sucks, or wants those paragraphs or scenes switched around. Yeah… that annoying pest. I don’t know about you, but they always seem to want to get to work when I want to just write.
- Practice with the Gif above This is kinda fun and feels like you’re wasting time, but only you can tell if it’s worth it. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by my internal editor, I’ll pull up this gif and wait until I can get her going clockwise before trying to write.
- Visualization Sometimes before a writing session, I’ll visualize stuffing my internal editor into an iron-bound box and shipping her off to Timbuktu for a while. This, combined with a timer, helps me focus on the creation of new words instead of getting caught up in futzing with ones already on the page.
- Give Both Sides Time To Play It might sound weird giving your worst critic time to play, but it doesn’t always have to be on YOUR stuff. A critique partner can benefit too! So… Give that IE a vacation (forced if necessary like above), but also give your analytical side some exercise too.
- Compartmentalize Set boundaries for yourself. Maybe you can only allow yourself 30 minutes rereading what you wrote previously and make changes and catch typos. Maybe you feel more creative in the morning, so use that time to create and do your edits and revisions later in the day. You might even find alternating days or longer periods work better for you.
- Prime the Pump Similar to compartmentalizing… do some warm-ups before jumping in to your project. If you need to be creative, try do something for 5-10 minutes that stimulates one or more of the items on right-side brain function list below. If you need your best analytical skills, pick something from the left side.
|Left Brain||Right Brain|
|detail oriented||“big picture” oriented|
|facts rule||imagination rules|
|words and language||symbols and images|
|present and past||present and future|
|math and science||philosophy & religion|
|can comprehend||can “get it” (i.e. meaning)|
|order/pattern perception||spatial perception|
|knows object name||knows object function|
|reality based||fantasy based|
|forms strategies||presents possibilities|
YOUR TURN: Which way did she turn for you at first? How do you switch gears between creative and analytical tasks? Easily, consciously or do you need to wait for inspiration to strike?
And if you’d like to read about how the rest of my accountability group answered, you can find their blogs here: