Edit Your Work
APPRECIATE YOUR LEFT BRAIN
As discussed in previous chapters, the right brain puts things together in a non-linear way. Its knowledge is gained through images rather than words. It can process many kinds of information simultaneously and make great leaps of insight. It understands metaphor, creates dreams and fantasies, wonders ‘What if . . . ?’ Such abilities generally receive less encouragement in the worlds of school and work than those which the left brain offers, e.g. logic, mathematical precision, ability to label accurately, order, neatness. One of the main aims of this book is to redress that particular imbalance.
However, this is not to suggest that the right brain is superior to the left brain. On the contrary, they complement each other in most activities. In fact after the age of five when specialisation of the hemispheres is complete, one cannot function efficiently without the other. A writer certainly could not function without access to the specialist activities of the left brain. It controls speech, reading, and writing. It recalls information and knows how to spell. As discussed in Chapter 9, the essential crafting and editing skills of analysing, sorting, selecting and sequencing are mainly left-brain activities.
The ideal is to get the two sides of the brain working in harmony, each supporting the other, doing what it does best while not getting in the other’s way. LiteraryMachine is a software program which claims to help with this process by ‘structuring right-brain thinking’. (See Useful addresses and websites.)
The dynamics of your particular left brain/right brain partnership can be observed by returning to the hand exploration exercise in Chapter 2. How did the two hands react to each other when you first did it?
- Try the exercise again. Compare the results. Does either side of the partnership need encouragement? Is some negotiation needed? How do you feel about each side? Does your attitude need some adjustment?
A good working relationship between both hemispheres will make the strongly left-brain task of editing less daunting. Although the two hemispheres work together on most activities, their way of processing information differs. The extent to which they are involved at a given time depends on the particular task. Peter Vincent gave me an invaluable piece of advice. Never write and edit at the same sitting. He told me that when he starts work on a script he lets the ideas, however off-the-wall, flow from his right brain unimpeded. ‘Anything can seem funny at this stage,’ he says. At the end of several days writing he welcomes the good sense of his left brain which steps in to sort out what will or will not work. Before Peter gave me this advice, I frequently found that the processes of creating and editing got in each other’s way and slowed my output down considerably. I found editing at a separate session so successful, that I organised my working week around it and now edit only on Fridays (plus the odd evening if a deadline is looming).
Confident handing over of the helm to the left brain in this way requires the services of a supportive rather than a censorious internal critic.