Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Right- or Left-Brained? Steps to Improve Creativity By Marie Wells Coutu

If you want to be a writer, you must be right-brained, right?

Not necessarily.

Researchers have found that “both sides of the brain are intimately involved in creativity and change,” according to the article “Jazz Up Your Brain” by Sandee LaMotee (from CNN.com and reprinted in Reader’s Digest, February 2019).

In fact, the writer says, no one has a dominant side of the brain.

The good news for you and me from this research, prompted by a study of jazz musicians, is that we can learn to be creative or to increase our creative abilities.

Facing a blank screen? Stuck for an idea for your next scene—or your next story? Think you’ve been fooling yourself by trying to become a published writer?

Don’t despair. You can improve your creativity.

Researcher Charles Limb found that the creative brain state of musicians and artists (and, of course, writers) “is similar to that of athletes ‘in the zone.’” To achieve that level of creativity, you must imitate athletes: practice, practice, practice, until instinct takes over.

Essentially, that’s what happens when you “fast draft.” You turn off the self-conscious and self-editing part of your brain and let the words flow. The more you do this—followed by revising, of course, which helps you learn what not to do--the faster and more creatively you can write. And eventually, the less editing will be needed.

At least, that’s what other authors have said.

In my own experience, I have found simply being aware of “weasel words” I tend to use has reduced my use of them in my first drafts. In other words, “instinct”—or training—takes over with practice, and my first drafts have gotten better.

So, besides practice, how can you improve your creativity, whether you think you’re right-brained or left-brained? Here are a few more ideas:

✏️Turn off your inhibitions. Don’t run naked into the street, but do try writing without stopping to edit.

✏️Look for ways to improvise in your daily life, says LaMotee. Break out of your routines and try something new or unexpected.

✏️Spend a few minutes every day in meditation or prayer. This helps to calm your mind and frees you to create.

✏️Utilize all your senses. Listen to music that suits the mood of your story, post pictures of your setting or characters where you can see them, use scents that fit your scene (pine for a Christmas story, lilac if your scene takes place in the spring), eat something your characters would be eating, hold an object your character might touch.

✏️Alternate brain activity with rest. Limb says, “The creative brain is a generally more activated brain than a noncreative one,” but too much activity can be overwhelming. Sometimes you need to unplug for a little while before continuing your work.

✏️Try a different medium, such as a musical instrument, painting, or photography. You may see the bigger picture and process your story in your subconscious while you create something totally unrelated.

Strengthening your creative muscles has another benefit. The research shows that an active brain helps to “ward off forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, and even dementia,” according to LaMotee.

So quit worrying about which type of brain you have. Exercise your whole brain and develop your creative instincts to become a better writer.

Your turn: What foods, objects, or music can you use to help you think creatively about your current work-in-progress?

If you want to be a writer, you must be #right-brained, right? Not necessarily. Ways to Develop Your #Creativity. #writingtips #amwriting @MWCoutu @MaryAFelkins

Marie Wells Coutu finds beauty in surprising places, like old houses, gnarly trees, and forgotten treasures. When she’s not writing about finding restoration and healing through God-designed journeys, she enjoys taking broken things and making them useful.

The Secret Heart, her newest release, was named a finalist in both the 2018 National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Awards and the 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards sponsored by Florida Writers Association. Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. Thirsting for More, the second book in the series was a finalist in the Selah Awards Contest and a semi-finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards. An unpublished historical novel set near Golden Pond has been a finalist in five contests.

She grew up in Kentucky, has lived in Kansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Iowa and South Carolina. With her handyman husband of four decades, she now divides her time between Florida and the Midwest.

You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook author page, her website, or follow her on Twitter or on Amazon.com.