Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Creativity – It’s all in your head

“Mind isn’t a tug-of-war with the left brain on one side and the right brain on the other, but a collaboration, an open exchange.” (Diane Ackerman, An Alchemy of Mind)

Editing and revising sometimes feel like glorified secretarial work: typo annihilation, grammar correction, formatting perfection. It’s easy to let the mechanics of writing override the rest of the process, to get so stuck on the getting the words exactly right that you miss the message. At least, this is the way I feel of late, revising Brighter Than Bright for the 8th time (yes, the 8th full revision; my friend Jimmy’s discovered enough ‘ouches’ to cause anemia). Editing gets old. Real quick.

I missed writing new stuff. Waking in the morning, cup o’joe steaming by my side, the full moon blaring through the window, the rest of the world asleep, greeted only by a fresh white piece of paper daring me to write… anything my mind desired. It gives me shivers just thinking about it…brrrrrr… The revision process removes me from my characters and their sticky, complicated, crazy lives. It has to, because this stage requires the entrance of distanced critic, not the emotional writer. In other words, the polishing stage requires the left hemisphere of the brain, the home of language and linear thinking and logic and laterality, to assert control of the creative process.

Left-brain thinking, though necessary, is not sufficient. My right brain, where images and patterns and spatial relations reside, is where the ideas flow from, where the brilliant bon mots and the realization that your protag sports a ying-yang tattoo under the right shoulder blade originate. It’s the imagistic, intuitive, FUN side of creativity.

After two solid months of sinister-side revisions, my right brain rebelled: WRITE!!!!! SOMETHING!!!!! OTHER THAN LINE EDITS!!!!!! At first, I was reluctant, feeling compulsive (and obsessive) about finishing this revision of my novel. So I started small: micro flash fiction and poetry. I’d steal a few minutes a day to tool away on a paragraph or stanza, feeling guilty I wasn’t spending the little ‘free’ time I had for ‘writing’ not finishing my much larger project. But something funny happened on the way to the forum… the more time I spent pontificating poems on paper, the faster and clearer and easier went the revising process.

The battle is over, my cerebral hemispheres have struck a compatible balance. At least for the time being. Here, a small poetry offering…

Gloria (Montepulciano, 1996)

In my sadness you lead me -
caretaker, confidant, friend –
through olive groves casting dark shadows
on burnt earth. We lay amidst silvered
sheaves, hidden from all
but the eyes of God and bees
buzzing, sodden and soporific.

Time slows, time stops,
clouds drape across an azure canvas,
The wind sounds low, softly stroking
the grass, your mussed hair, our tumbled limbs,
hearts halcyon in this infinite instant.
Eyes reflecting sky, you turn,
absolve my melancholy.

Sanctified, we sleep.


FREEBIE: If you want to read some fascinating interviews on creativity with an incredibly talented and diverse group of artists, check out this blog: Cecil Vortex

May your mind transport you to places you never imagined, and provide you the tools to tell the world about your journeys… Peace, Linda


  1. Hi, Linda,

    I'm revising a bunch of older short stories right now (from '01, '04, and '05 respectively). So I can identify with what you're saying! I do think there's a more right-brain-centric form of revision, involves seeing ten words that can be replaced by one image, say, that implies the logical assertion that was previously there. In my story, for instance, I replaced a crop-duster with a dollop of dogshit--nothing logical about it, but it reads much better (I hope).

    Here's an interesting link on how creative types and (sic) non-creative types use their brains differently when problem solving.



  2. please tell me you're doing something with your poetry. I mean, wow.

    it's funny you write about this, because it's such a huge issue for me. I always have to do both. I can't just work on writing, or just editing. I have to do both. I even have to structure my time (1 hr to a poem, 1 hr to novel, etc), including the days of the week. because I hate editing so much, it's like a reward, getting to write. also, classes. I'm always taking classes-right now poetry. why, I don't know. I think it's the interaction, exposure. But if I miss a piece, I can't do any of it. :( (p.s. 8 revisions?!!?? the thought brings me to tears. I HATE revisions. you are a much stronger woman than me.)

  3. Hey Tim, thanks for dropping by and doubly thanks for the url - cool site. I may tap into your 10-word approach for my next blog, which will explore Oblique Strategies and other ways to tap into creativity... and I must see the crop-duster turns into doggie poo piece - I can't imagine!

    Kelley girl, thanks for the props on the poem, but they go to Ben - he wrote them, heh-heh-heh. He's shopping this and a few others around as we 'speak'.

    Yeah, 8 full revisions. I actually love revising - it's like sculpting or making little glass beads - each turn yields a different perspective, a different flavor. But I'm thrilled to be cranking new stuff, especially shorter doable pieces. Just wish I could get some sleep... persevere, my friends, persevere... Peace...

  4. Diane Ackerman's quote will be with me for days. As for your success of finding a balance between your cerebral hemispheres...can you put that in pill form please?