Combatting Left Brain Criticism

Combatting Left Brain Criticism

Right Brain vs Left Brain

I was going back through some notes I took last year while reading Jack Bickham‘s “The 38 Most Common Fiction Writer’s Mistakes” and found myself drawn to Chapter Twenty-Seven all over again.

Well, not drawn exactly. More like unable to look away.

Sorta like coming across a photo of yourself at the jr. high dance wearing that super snazzy taffeta train wreck of a dress.

Chapter Twenty-Seven’s title says it all: Don’t Criticize Yourself To Death

Enough said, right? Hardly. Because one day I’m a freaking Word Magician and the next day, I got nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. Well, unless you count all the swell little paper airplanes nose-down in the wastebasket.

I remember reading through Chapter Twenty-Seven last year and thinking, “Aha! There is a psychological reason for Writer’s Insanity! Yeah, buddy! I got a ticket to ride!”

Phrases that caught my attention:

  • One of the hardest things a writer has to do is learn how to be self-critical (which leads to improvement) but not picky.
  • When you write fiction, you are risking the revelation of your dreams and deepest emotions.
  • The act of writing is closely tied to the writer’s ego structure.
  • However, you must remember that when you are writing a rough draft, your job is to be a creator, not a critic.

And then he broke down the whole Right Brain vs Left Brain struggle, explaining how the two halves of the brain imperfectly communicate with each other.

  • There is a widely held belief that most psychological theory is the result of the Left Brain trying to make sense of the stuff felt and done by the Right Brain, which is impulsive, basically kind of crazy and essentially unexplainable.

Right Brain vs Left Brain

  • → Right = (1) Emotion (2) Imagination (3) Intuition (4) Creativity
  • → Left = (1) Logic (2) Language (3) Analysis (4) Critic

Consider all that goes on when you write:

  • Ideas, pictures, characters and plot drift out of your Right Brain without shape or linearity.
  • So your Left Brain is called on to analyze and logicalize and form and plan.
  • When you write your rough draft, your Right Brain comes back into play.
  • But your Left Brain isn’t decommissioned because it has to process language and audit the  performance to make sure there’s form and direction.
  • During revisions, the Left Brain comes to the fore, looking for logical problems, examining story patterns, character motives, grammar, etc.

Bickham’s Bottom Line on the Matter: You must come to recognize that part of growing up (maturing) as a fiction writer is the realization that all of us are scared:

  • of looking dumb
  • of running out of ideas
  • of never selling our work
  • of not getting noticed

The fear of looking dumb is just the jealous yammering of the Left Brain Critic who is tired of sitting in the corner while the Right Brain Creator plays!

Wow. I can’t afford to leave these notes moldering in my notebook another moment.

I’m going to print them out and tape them on my desk. Seriously.

That way, next time I get hit with a case Writer’s Doubt or Writer’s Angst, I can get out the Super Strength Duct Tape, wrap it around the Left Brain Critic’s wiseacre mouth and give the Right Brain crazies free rein!

Who’s with me?!