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ABOUT WRITING: Truth is, the left and the right brain work symbiotically
IF you remember the hula hoop and are a bit long in the tooth, you'll probably remember my take a long time ago on right-brain thinking.
Right-brain thinking is the favourite of creative people, and many who write books on that hemisphere and then do nothing more. Perhaps they are all gathered south on some sunny shores counting the money sent them by people who are whacking their right sides even as they, the beachsiders, are counting their ackers.
The notion of creativity as some magic potion is rife but ask most writers and they'll tell you that whilst inspiration may hit them every once in a while, most of what they do is the result of hard work. Writing and re-writing and scrubbing words off paper and then going out for long walks to clear the mind. And then coming home to re-write, another look.
Taking a look may be a hint at how words are written, where you see the picture from in your head and then the flow of words as they touch paper. I don't know this for sure as I am not what you might call a writer but I feel certain that that is one way they do it.
Writers who write about writing mostly approach it mechanically. How to plot a story, how to create believable characters, how to craft a work rather than how to sit and wait for that ah-ha moment. And there is nothing wrong with that because that is probably the only way you can approach it. Writers, you see, just write.
Sometimes you get the impression that those who are asked to write books on how to write -- crime writer George V. Higgins, for example -- are themselves surprised that they are even asked to do so.
Here is how Higgins puts his craft in a nutshell: "The secret is that there is no secret. The way to determine whether you have talent is to rummage through your files to see if you have written anything; if you have, and quite a lot, then the chances are you have the talent to write more."
Reading through his On Writing you get the impression that that is the sum of what he has to say. And then he fills his manual with lengthy reproductions of other people's exemplary and non-exemplary pieces of work. And that's worth more than anything he has to say: just go there and read what is good and even what is not good, and then take thee your own way.
The reason I'm into this is because of what I've seen as the coming of age of "creativity" as a study. What started as the fanciful notion of people who urge you to draw with your right side (of the brain) or see, or think with the right side is now in the respectable domain of neuroscience where people with respectable scientific credentials are asking you to switch off the left anterior temporal lobe (LATL), that part of the brain that holds the template of what you see, all the existing hypotheses that you have, then the right anterior temporal lobe (RATL) will come into play with novel insights and novel ideas.
The most famous of this experiment into supercharging your brain for well, let's call it creativity, is the Chi-Snyder experiment.
Richard P. Chi and Allan W. Snyder are two researchers at the University of Sydney’s Centre for the Mind who are intrigued by the artistic talent that emerges from people with “dominant (usually left) anterior temporal lobe dementia”.
They being scientists applied no magic, of course, to find this out, they applied direct current stimulation to inhibit the left side so that the right would be able to originate new ideas unfettered by the already existing templates.
Now, I’m not asking you to try this yourself at home, but even they are careful to say that what they were looking for is a “different kind of insight” that is free from your everyday “mental set effect”.
The Chi-Snyder electrical “thinking cap” has brought a lot of excitement, as you would expect, from the right-brain people, and listening to the sweetness of sounds coming from them I should now be in my garden shed designing a hat plugged in to the national grid for my blockbuster, so to speak. But my left side keeps telling me that the left and the right brain (as I shall put it in layman’s language) work symbiotically. You just cannot have the one without the other.
Even Chi and Snyder were careful to say that what you get from their electric thinking cap can only change your thinking style temporarily.
And even then it is your insight that changes, not creativity as you would want it to be. For creativity is a snark, you see.
What the Chi-Snyder zap to the brain does is to declutter it awhile and make it free for a fresh flow. Something you can get by going for a walk, sleeping over it, or riding a bicycle.