Becoming a Writer: From elusive thought to the written page…

Why is it your best thinking is done in the shower or driving to work, but when you sit down to write your mind is strangely, stubbornly blank?

Where did those thoughts go? How do you get them back so that you can write them down?

Our brains are divided between two operating modes. We have two hemispheres in our brains. We, the general public, call them the right and left sides of the brain. In popular culture, our artistic half resides on the right side and the calculating, logical side resides in the left. This is not quite correct as neuroscientists have recently discovered. Though, it is true that one side of the brain tends to dominate certain activities and the other different activities that roughly correspond to a “creative” side and “deductive” side, the communication between both hemispheres of the brain is greater than what we used to think.

When you are doing those mundane, mostly automatic tasks such as taking a shower or driving a familiar route to work, your right side (where wordless, creative thought goes on) is free to wander around in your consciousness. Those wonderful, swirling thoughts begin to stray into your left side and take the form of pictures, ideas, and conversational forms. In effect, they surface from your unconscious to your conscious mind.  So, what happens when you sit down to write and those thoughts scatter? It’s because your critical, conscious mind takes over again. It says to your whole brain: “Here is a task that I must concentrate on” and banishes the arty, unconscious part of the brain to the recesses of your mind, effectively cutting you off from the unconscious mind where those thoughts originated. This response, from what I have read, is an evolutionary development that is a normal survival response. So, is there a way to coax those thoughts back from your unconscious to your conscious mind in such a way that they can be expressed concretely?

Turns out that you can….if you follow the instructions in the book, Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande.

[Please note that I get a commission if you use the Amazon link. There is also a free .pdf copy of it here: Becoming A Writer ]

AmazonBook Description: Becoming a Writer remains evergreen decades after it was first written. Brande believed passionately that although people have varying amounts of talent, anyone can write. She also insists that writing can be both taught and learned. This is Dorothea Brande’s legacy to all those who have ever wanted to express their ideas in written form. A sound, practical, inspirational and charming approach to writing, it fulfills on finding ‘the writer’s magic.’

 

I was surprised to see that even back then the understanding of the divided brain was not so much different than we understand it today. Truthfully, we still don’t know much about the brain and our ideas of the structure and biological processes change over time, but the basic idea that our brain attends to problems in a divided manner remains the same. Exactly how it works is something left to science. Why it works is best left to philosophy. Getting it to work? Fortunately, for us, exactly how the brain operates is not necessary to understand how to train it to help us get the creative side of the brain and the stubborn, skeptical part of our brain to communicate more effectively.  It simply takes a good teacher and the willingness to practice and modify the practice to fit your needs.

I’ve had this same problem for so many years, and the past year seemed to be the worst. I wouldn’t have believed there was a way to get at these thoughts. I almost gave up. But, in just the first week of practicing the lessons from this book, I wrote down a dream, a number of ideas for essays, descriptive writing – which has always been hard for me, and a piece of dialog that I thought I had lost forever.

Keep in mind that what this book promises is help in recalling your thoughts in a way that you can dump them onto the page. What comes next is the actual craft of writing. The ideas and words that come still need to be shaped into a finished form. But, if you are like me, the first block to writing will be overcome. It is a remarkable feeling of liberation.

The blog I found this book on is a writing blog called: Writing About Writing (And Occasionally Some Writing) And I am eternally grateful to the blog’s author, Chris Brecheen, for bringing it to my attention.

Until next time…😊