Thinking with the right side of the brain
Today’s post is about a post I posted on Helen Mort’s blog, Poetry on the Brain. http://www.poetryonthebrain.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-poetry-of-running.html#comment-form
I’ve been a long time admirer of Helen from afar. As poets go, they’re not usually as easy on the eye, or the ear. But Helen’s poetry is accessible and if there was an identikit of my dream woman she’d tick most of the boxes. Beautiful, blonde, intelligent. She’s currently doing her PhD in Sheffield, some deep intellectual shit about metaphor and the influence of neuroscience in poetry. If you heard a big whooshing sound there, that was her PhD going straight over my head.
Helen posted the other day about an area she’s looking into – how the different sides of the brain affect creativity. I read a book about it once, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to prove to her what a deeply beautiful mind I have, if nothing else. Here’s what I posted:
“I came across this revelation as an art student many years ago, when I read Betty Edwards’ book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The learning has stood me in good stead over the years. I liken it to ‘quietening’ the left side of the brain, though others describe it as ‘tricking’ or ‘distracting’ it. I couldn’t begin to explain the neuro-science behind it, I only know that movement or activity seems to switch off the interfering, logical side of my brain, allowing my more creative, imaginative right side to kick in. If a poem, story, bit of dialogue or narrative I’m working on is ‘stuck’, I can sit at my desk or laptop for days despairing I’ll ever write another interesting syllable. Every word arrives dead on the page. Then I’ll go out for a bike ride, or perhaps a walk in my lunch break, thinking about nothing in particular, just enjoying the surroundings, when mysteriously the creative cogs in the brain suddenly start turning, and the words begin to flow. I’ve learned to take a small notebook and pencil with me wherever I am (or my mobile on bike rides, so I can dictate into the voice recorder). Like you Helen, if I’m caught in the open when the word storm arrives, without any means of recording it, I begin mumbling passages to myself like an idiot all the way home, fearful of everything evaporating into thin air.
The reason I think the metaphor of ‘quietening’ is more apt than ‘tricking’ the LH brain, is because when I consciously try to ‘trick’ it (i.e. purposefully go on a walk, notebook and pen at the ready), it doesn’t seem to respond in the same way. Consciousness of the reason behind the activity seems to defeat the purpose, so you walk along thinking, come on then, words, where the bloody hell are you! It’s not until you give up and stop focusing on it, just enjoying the physical activity you’re doing, that the creative juices start flowing again. At least, that’s how it works for me.
Oftentimes it will happen when I’m doing something mundane like having a bath, or standing at the supermarket checkout – any activity which seems to occupy the ‘guards’ of my consciousness long enough for my sub-conscious thoughts to slip out unnoticed.
Paradoxically, there is one sedentary activity that seems to work, for some reason, and that’s lying in bed. There’s something about being tucked up under the duvet, gazing at the ceiling or with a notepad propped on one’s knees, which seems to soothe the brain, convincing it you’re at a place of rest rather than work. Michael Morpurgo is an avid bed-writer, I learned from a recent TV interview. And The Paris Review is full of anecdotes describing authors’ favourite armchairs and garden sheds. The imagination, it would seem, lives in an entirely different room in our heads to the conscious world of work and commerce we inhabit every day. That’s why young children are so creative, before they are taught to lock their make-believe away and grow up in the real world. Jogging, cycling, gardening, or just snuggling up under a duvet – as writers and artists we just need to find the key to unlock that room in our heads whenever we need to go there, and tell the logical, interfering practical world to stay outside, and mind its own business.”
I was going to sign my post with protestations of love and a proposal of marriage, but hey, Helen’s in Sheffield and I’m in Norfolk, so that idea’s dead in the water. She’s probably got this thousand-strong Twitterverse of hunky male admirers anyhow. Mayp it’s best if I keep our relationship on a purely fantasy level for now. Still, I kinda like the way Helen’s blog ‘Poetry on the Brain’ chimes with my book title, ‘Sex on the Brain’. Poetic, you might almost say. Helen, I love you… your work, I mean.