Left Brain, Right Brain

Do you ever wonder what it is exactly that inhibits you from writing without any worry, anxiety, or stress? What makes you erase your words on paper, or press the backspace button on your laptop after you’ve only written a phrase? Being unable to translate our ideas into words is, unfortunately, the most common problem I witness as a writing counselor and as an English major. So often we hear the phrase, “Just let yourself go and let the words come out!” and we know that’s what we should be doing. But why is it so difficult?

Well, say hello to the inhibitor itself: your left-brain.

*Before I get into my post any further, I would like to point out that with progressing technology and bigger finds about our own body, our ‘left’ and ‘right’ brain is not actually as different as we think it is. Scientists today now state that both of the hemispheres of our brain are actually quite similar! Take this post as more of a symbolic strategy rather than fact itself.

Our brain’s two hemispheres, the left brain and right brain, both possess different “tasks,” so to say, during our everyday lives, whether we’re walking down the street or working on a homework problem. According to the article, “Right Brain/Left Brain: What’s It All About?” the two hemispheres of our brain can be broken down into these adjectives:



 In a nutshell, our left brain is the individual who wants things to be fast, clear, concrete. It needs to be logical, even if it means trying over and over again. It keeps track of time, desiring to figure things out step-by-step, and in the case of writing, phrase-by-phrase. It’s linear and structured – deviating from its path of convergent thinking is highly undesirable.

On the other hand, our right brain is the root of our creativity. It thirsts to put things together to create something bigger, ignoring time and rationality while flowing in any direction it so desires. Divergent thinking is what the right brain depends on: seeing the many ideas that can come out of a word, picture, object, etc.

In a ‘battle’ between our brain hemispheres, the left brain quite often leaves as the victor. It leaves us wondering why we can’t put together a our ideas in a coherent manner when all it wants to do is jump from the first step (our thoughts and ideas) into the final step (a final and well-thought out paper). We end up succumbing to it. We’re already expecting greatness before picking up the pen.

Instead, we need a balanced cooperation between the left brain and our right brain in order to achieve effective writing. But how do we do that?

After looking at different articles of left brain/right brain strategies to get both sides to work in harmony when it comes to writing, I’ve concocted a list of strategies that works for each hemisphere:

The Left Brain Way: The Right Brain Way:
If you’ve created a visual map, how can the ideas tie together? From the divergent thinking of the maps now comes the convergence of all these ideas into a well-thought out start to an outline. Use visual maps when brainstorming- these maps can diverge into as many different branches, bubbles, etc.
After asking yourself the ‘why’ to the proposal of your paper, go a step further and now think of the reasons of the ‘why.’ It will help you form opinions and rationalize your idea. For example, I ask myself why I want to write about colonialism in The Tempest. I say it’s because I find the topic of colonialism to be interesting. But why do I find it interesting? How does the idea you’re thinking of arouse your emotions? What is it about this idea that you feel compelled to write about? By focusing on that, you can then diverge into the ‘why’ of the topic first instead of the ‘how’ which can make the writing process much smoother.
Research and find examples for your paper. Search in databases, read books, and pick out certain quotes that can support your idea. Listen to, or even play, music.
Analyze your ideas – what is it about your points that can ultimately tie back to the main focus of your paper? However, don’t set aside anything that might not have strong connections to your focus. Going off of visual maps, utilize images that can guide you into the right direction
Use linear strategies to create how each of your ideas will relate and work off of all your other ideas. Become dynamic instead of static: our brain receives more oxygen when we move, so don’t be afraid to go outside and take a stroll.
Create a concrete outline of your paper that is organized and direct in what direction your paper is going in Once you have an outline written down, don’t be afraid to mix up paragraphs, words, or ideas as it may inspire new perspectives.
Sometimes, our ideas need to have a little nudge by an outside force for it to come out. Have a dialogue with a friend and witness how the exchange of words between both parties can help you clear your mind.

Using both your left brain and right brain is not always the easiest task. However, with enough practice – and above all – time, you can become more comfortable with the emergence of ideas using the right brain, and its refinement using the left brain. Remember that writing is not a process that always follows a certain method. Allow your thoughts to go in any direction without confining yourself before bringing it all back in.


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