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Never ask your left-brain to draw because he doesn’t know how and he doesn’t care either. Try putting your hand out in front of you and drawing what you see.

Left-brain idea of a hand

If you let your left-brain take the job, he’ll (my left-brain is a he of course) draw a hand, not this hand, but a caricature of hand, like the nasty drawing above. Your left-brain will think it lovely because it satisfies his criteria for a hand. He’s good at classifying things but he certainly can’t draw.

Hand Holding a Pipe -- modified contour drawing

If you want to draw a hand, ask your right-brain (I call my right-brain my dragon) to draw what he sees, not a hand holding a pipe, just ask him to trace the outlines of everything he sees. Tell him to take his time and he will, as his eyes trace the details, your hand guides your pencil and an image of a particular hand holding a particular pipe emerges on the paper.

This will drive your left-brain nuts. He has no patience for what he considers unnecessary nonsense and will tell you on no uncertain terms to quit wasting time and get on with it. He’s rude and might jump up and down screaming “talk to the hand” in your virtual ear. Simply smile and ignore him, thinking to yourself that you are the one who is really talking to the hand. He’ll get bored, give up and leave you alone. It simply takes patience and a bit of practice.

Jade Plant -- modified contour drawing

Creativity finds itself in the particular, in the details. Here’s another modified contour drawing that my dragon and I made during the summer of 1994. I put a jade plant in front of us and asked him to draw what he saw.

Creative writing faces the same dilemma. Your left-brain loves to generalize and put everything into neat abstract categories; your right-brain loves the details. Your left-brain wants yes or no answers; your inner dragon loves to imagine the particular, the specific. Here’s an example from my short story “An Emerald Ring” where Elizabeth tells us how she feels about her Aunt Nellie.

Elizabeth could have said “Aunt Nellie was a grouchy old woman” and that’s certainly true but not terribly creative, something your left-brain might say. This is what I wrote instead:

“Grim faced old Aunt Nellie lay there in the coffin, lips so tight it’s a wonder her face didn’t break. Aunt Nellie’s lips barely moved when she talked and if she ever smiled, I never saw her do it. Maybe she smiled in secret, in front of her mirror just for practice.”

When you show your reader, you engage her imagination, letting her draw her own conclusions about Aunt Nellie and how Elizabeth feels about her.

How do you convince your left-brain inner critic to stay out of the way when writing? You give yourself permission to write shitty first drafts knowing that, like a film photographer, you will develop the images later when you edit and re-write, when you welcome the helping hand of your valuable inner critic. When you are writing creatively, your job is to capture the images without editing or censoring.

If you missed the first parts of the series and would like to read them, here are the links:

Monday Musings: An Emerald Ring, the Story

Monday Musings: An Emerald Ring, the Story II

Monday Musings: An Emerald Ring, the Story III

And here’s the link where you can download the full text of An Emerald Ring with my compliments.

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