Accessing the creative side of the brain

Betty Edwards, a much-respected teacher of drawing and painting in the USA published a book in the 1970’s which was considered revolutionary at the time. She put forward the argument that the left side of the brain is verbal and analytic, whereas the right side of the brain is more visual and perceptual. She has taught thousands of non- drawers to draw using simple techniques which halt the left side critic and allow the creative right side to emerge. It was inspiring then and now.

I think writers put similar techniques into practice when the ideas flow and we lose track of time, when the connections seem effortless and the words sit right- that’s when we are accessing the creative side.

The switch over from ‘I’m hopeless’ to ‘I’m writing’ is a subtle one, though, and it has a great deal to do with time. Of course, we need both sides of our brains to function well as humans, but the left side is full of excuses, of deadlines, of reasons why we might as well watch TV or have another glass of wine or do the washing, rather than get the pen out and alter the balance of power.

So, how do we do it? I think it’s silence we need. The silence that feeds the creative brain. The decision to spend our precious free time writing, rather than doing anything else, that makes the difference. So hard when we are at the beck and call of the world.

But if we really want to write (and I do, I really do) then we have to make that time and keep it for ourselves. Shut the door, turn off radio 4 and give ourselves time for something to come through. Walking on your own is also a good way, letting your imagination roam under the big sky.

Well, that was a nice little left side of the brain diversion. Turning off the radio now.

Edwards, Betty. The New Drawing on The Right Side of the Brain. Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-87477-424-1.


Finding my voice

I’m losing my voice.  What voice I have left is raspy, giving me a Lauren Bacall growl I don’t recognise. Throat is pinkly sore. I can feel the poison of the virus thriving in the damp darkness. I’m seriously fed up – talking is one of those things I’m good at.

On Saturday I took part in a voice workshop run by an inspirational teacher called Tina Bridgman. It was about freeing the singer inside us, loosening and relaxing the grip that many of us keep on the emotional range and breadth of our singing voices. We are moved by music and by songs, yet we shy away from using the power that we have to move and inspire others through singing. Why?

Well, from what I understood that day, it can be something as simple as someone telling you, as a child, not to sing, or that you couldn’t sing, or to mime instead. Off-hand advice not meant cruelly, but devastating to a fragile childhood ego. And once the lid comes down on a budding talent, it stays down.

So, let go. Join a choir, attend a workshop, see where it takes you. Have a go. I did, and yes, it made me cry. An upwelling of emotion that I didn’t even know was there broke down a barrier that I didn’t even know was there. I sang like I have never been able to sing before. On my own, in front of people.

Looks like I am finding my voice, after all.