Archive for the 'Creativity' Category

Shhh … It’s HER Turn Now

Nov 08 2014 Published by under Creativity

I get nervous every time I sit down at my computer to write. It doesn’t matter if I’m crafting a donor appeal letter, a social media marketing campaign, an editorial letter to an author, a short story of my own—even this inaugural blog post. Writing, crafting a perfect piece of language, is my passion, and the flip side of that passion is fear.

I’ve spent some time thinking about writing—why I do it, why I don’t do it more often, why I only allow myself time for the writing someone else is paying me to do—in preparation for this post. Specifically, plumbing and analyzing my fear. And I think I’ve hit upon the heart of it: What makes me an effective editor is also what makes me a slow, timid writer: that insistence on perfection, the cultivating of lightning-quick analysis, the default mode of problem solving.

Every time my creative Right Brain tries to speak up—“What if…?”—her twin sister, analytical Left Brain, silences her, with fingernails digging into her arm and a glare that means “Don’t you dare say something stupid and embarrass me.”

I appreciate Left Brain so much—she’s worked tirelessly to give me my dream career—but her confidence has gone to her head and she’s become a bit of a bully. As nonconfrontational as I am, there’s no one to put her in her place except me.

In her gorgeously insightful book The Mind of Your Story (Writer’s Digest Books, 2008), my friend Lisa Lenard-Cook illuminates why our best ideas come when we’re doing mundane tasks like driving, showering, or folding laundry:

Thinking … is a left-brain activity, and when it’s particularly all-consuming, which it is when you’re frantic, right brain can’t get a word—or in right brain’s case, an image—in edgewise. But as soon as you engage left brain in a less stressful activity … right brain takes the opportunity to—nyah! nyah!—let you know it knew the answer all along. … [W]hen you engage left brain in an endeavor that requires its focus, right brain can send its images over without left brain trying to interpret (or censor) them in its own distinct way.

I don’t think my experience is unique; lots of writers feel the anxiety of striving for perfection in each sentence. But I think my anxiety is escalated into the realm of fear because I’ve made the quest for perfection literally my job.

It’s been to my advantage to let Left bully Right—staying in analytical mode so I can help the authors I work with find solutions to their story problems—but more and more, I’m feeling like I’m only half the writer/editor I could be.

So here’s my very public challenge to myself (and to you, if you need it): Right now, whatever you’re working on, consciously stop self-editing. Even if you have to back Left Brain into the corner, one finger poke to her chest at a time, or distract her by sorting, washing, and folding every last piece of laundry in your house, make her take the day (or even an hour) off.

Give your creative Right Brain a chance to make connections between those ideas you’ve been obsessing over (also an idea from Lisa, so seriously, find her book and read it, ’cause it’s amazing) and then take a deep breath, sit down at the keyboard, and let her voice—which is really your voice—come through.

Next up, I’ll share with you the most unwittingly hurtful thing a writer ever said to me at a conference. (It was more than a handful of years ago, and it still bothers me to this day.)

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