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The Battle Between the Hemispheres

by Lori Woodward Simons on 4/14/2009 11:32:43 AM

This Post is by Lori Woodward Simons, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  Find out how you can be a guest author.

I wish my brain could be hooked up to an MRI for a day so I could see what sides of my brain are lighting up when I'm doing certain tasks. Alas I cannot afford such an experiment, so I'll have to settle for guessing what my brain is doing.

How Goes The Battle?

For the sake of convenience, I'll refer to the right brain as "RB" and the left brain as "LB" during the course of this post.

My left hemisphere keeps track of time and measures everything. It firmly states each morning, It's 9:00 am, now get to work. If you don't start now, you'll fall behind, lose your chances for success and feel ashamed. The Right brain says, I'm having fun, don't bother me. I'll get everything done, you'll see... you don't know how fast I can work under pressure.

An hour later, the LB butts in, It's 10:00 am, and you've wasted another hour "having fun".  I realize that you think talking online is important, but you're deluded. Your work tasks are piling up, you lazy good-for-nothing... People are depending on you to do your job and a good job at that. Get off now before it's too late you're too tired to think.

The RB looks at the clock and says, OK, I'll get off this monster but Just one last tweet!

Then at 10:30, the LB convinces the RB to look around the room and eventually at the clock. The LB is extremely irritated for being ignored. And now the RB is starting to feel ashamed, depressed, and confused about how to get into another mode of operation. At least both hemispheres are beginning to see the light - or as it may be, light up at the same time... they are in agreement: Time has slipped by and cannot be retrieved.

Either the RB gives in to the LB, resigning to the fact that it's time to do work, or else the RB states that there's still plenty of other days to get work done and decides to only get up if the phone rings or the person to whom the brain belongs gets too hungry.

Let's say my LB wins for now, but when I get up to start my work, here's what typically happens: My LB is upset, because my RB didn't put anything away yesterday, and I can't see where to clearly begin work. LB gets critical: Because your references and supplies are scattered between rooms, you will have to spend an hour setting up. Furthermore, did you bother to clean your brushes last time you painted? Yes, by now....we are all beginning to see that my LB is really my internal nagging mother.

Internal Nags are necessary

However, if it weren't for that nagging mother inside me, I would live like a carefree child all of my days on earth, never being responsible and never succeeding at much of anything - except making friends. I need internal nagging! When I worked for a computer company or was in college, I had external pressure to get my work done. Now that I'm working at home alone (where no one can see me goof off) I realize I need an internal set up to get me motivated. The key is to learn to motivate my RB into wanting to get started. The hardest part of this problem is that my right brain doesn't understand responsibility - and it seems to be able to trump my left brain. I think this is how addictions start. The RB doesn't know it's headed straight toward a cliff because the journey seems so pleasure-filled.

As an artist, I am predominantly right brained. I envy my left-brained artist friends because they have an easier time meeting their goals and getting organized, but they are right-brained enough to own that spark of creativity.  The question I've been asking myself is: How can I be successful when my right brain is only interested in leading me emotionally down the path of an endless stream of creative thoughts, but without the realization of responsibility?

The World Needs All Kinds of Thinkers

I believe that God made me to do good work, and that He has control over who I am. God said King David was a man after his own heart, and I have come to think that David was highly right brained. Can you imagine a right-brained King succeeding today? With God, all things are possible, eh? I'm just saying this here because I have faith that I can find a way to work efficiently, even without a highly developed left-brained way of living.

For the past decade or so, I've sought advice by reading books on organization and pursing life's goals. While I do learn from these books and follow the authors' advice for a time, inevitably, I return to my own RB dominated habits. I've come to the conclusion that it's not because I'm lazy or hopelessly irresponsible. It's because I'm highly right-brained, and following a recipe written by an OCD left-brained organizer seems to work only temporarily for my ADD right-brained self.

For a few months now, I've been pursuing a self-directed experimental program to find solutions to help organize highly right-brained folks. Yes, I'm using my own experience as the template, but Piaget (a French psychologist) pioneered much of today's accepted theories for how a child's brain develops - based on observations of his own children. So I feel vindicated in using similar methods... at least my RB thinks so.

I don't want to tell you about everything I've been working on right now. Mostly because I want to create anticipation and suspense, and secondly because it's going to take some time to brainstorm ideas (RB) , and follow through with experimentation... (LB).

So next time your left brain tells you that you're just a scatterbrained artist who will never succeed, get  your right brain to reply, Oh yeah? Just you wait and see; We've got our own ways of making things work!

PS for you left brained artists who have no idea what I've just been talking about, don't worry - I'll continue using bulleted lists of steps to follow, but perhaps I'd be better off leaving that to LB-dominant artists. I'm not making any assumptions about who is right or left-brained - That's for each of us to determine for ourselves, or else get hooked up to an MRI for day.



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Related Posts:

Practicing Quiet Confidence

Be an Outside Zebra by Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Interruption is the Enemy of Productivity

To See or Not To See

When Less Becomes More

Topics: Creativity and Inspiration | Productivity 

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Loading comments...

Karen Sempsrott
via web
I love this post. It made me laugh out loud. It's scary how much I can relate.

Deborah Paris
via web
What a great article Lori! All of my early training and interests were creative (my undergrad degree is a BFA) but I took a detour and went to law school. I practiced law for almost 10 years before starting to paint again and almost 20 before becoming a full time professional artist. For many years my husband referred to me as Sybil (of multiple personality fame) because of the extreme right/left brain way I lived my life. However, I eventually realized that my analytical thinking and problem solving skills were beneficial to my art career- not only on the business side but in learning to become a better painter. I don't think one is dominant in my case but I do think they both need frequent exercise to stay in shape!

Lori Woodward Simons
via web

I'm seeing that many of the artists I meet online live somewhere down the middle - between left and right. Perhaps the "mostly right" brained ones don't like PC's.

Interesting.. You were a lawyer, Stacey was an engineer, and I went to nursing school after I got my fine art degree - loved the sciences. Ended up working for a computer company for 10 years after marrying and moving to NH.

Perhaps that's why I have such difficulty making decisions - always that battle going on.

Sharon Schwenk
via web
This morning as I was writing (by hand) in my morning pages I realized that during that time I feel very creative and ready to paint. My routine is that after doing the morning pages I read the paper, then check my e-mail before going out to walk for an hour. My morning pages goal is to begin painting as soon as my walk is over.
Instead I go to the computer. And spend hours. I think the computer satisfies my creative needs in a way that drains my creativity. I understand completely the battle between left and right brain. I am starting to realize that my desire to create is being used up on the computer. However, the thought of not turning it on is scary.
The only time I give up the computer is the three weeks I spend in France each year. That trip is so stimulating to my right brain that I can get over my addiction. That and trying to use the French keyboard at an internet site.
If I don't turn the computer on the first thing in the morning how will I keep up with my e-mail? How will people who want to go to France for the painting workshop get in touch with me? My heart just stops thinking about this.


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