Creativity Monday: Right Brain, Left Brain
10 Monday Feb 2014
You know the old “right brain, left brain” idea—the one that says logic and analytics are on the left side of your brain, and creativity and intuition are on the right? You probably have an idea of which side you prefer, right?
At the CHA show in Anaheim last month, I sat in a group of designers and talked about magazine articles. “I hate writing instructions!” said one designer, and the others agreed. When I said I actually kind of enjoyed it, the group was surprised. “It’s boring,” said one. “It’s too detailed,” said another. “I’m right-brained,” said a third.
Well, writing instructions is a detail-oriented job. And it isn’t exciting in the way creating something is exciting. But even as I squint over my ruler to measure my 5 5/8″ x 4 3/4″ piece of paper (and wondering why on earth I didn’t just cut the piece to an even number), I have to say I find it a little therapeutic.
I’ll tell you why: Because I’ve discovered that it’s really good for me to alternate what you might call right-brain activities with left-brain activities.
I can spend a lot of time designing, making, writing, imagining—all of those right-brained activities. But I peter out eventually, and that’s when it’s really better for me to put down the ink and paper and start doing something considered left-brain. Business accounts. Outlining a new workshop. Or writing step-by-step instructions. (Yep, those project instructions.)
And when I come back to that designing, writing and dreaming? Well, it seems the break has strengthened my creativity.
When I design something, it might seem as though it’s all creative and intuitive and in-the-flow. But really, my brain is making a series of decisions. Blue paper or red? Ribbon here or there? Ink or paint? Spray it with water or not?
Even those things that seem like intuition are really decisions that are often based on experience. I think: I’ve tried this before and it worked. Or, I’ve never tried this before—should I see if it works? Sometimes I remember that technique I did a few months ago and maybe that’s the way I should go.
This is the advantage of keeping my left brain up to speed. Those decisions are subconscious—I know I make them, but the process can flow so easily and quickly that I’m really not aware of it.
Left brain? Right brain? I find that most of us reside somewhere in the middle. I may prefer painting to balancing my business expenses, but I think the reason I’m better at painting is because I do it more. Practice really does make perfect. And when you’re capable at something, you enjoy it.
The most interesting part: As I was looking up “right brain, left brain” (because I can never remember which one is which), I came across two articles that claimed the whole theory is a myth!
Whatever you call it, I believe the interaction of left and right—or analytical and intuitive—is still a powerful one. And that by strengthening one, you also strengthen the other. What do you think?