Thursday, May 19, 2011
Revision City: Using Our Whole Brain
I started a new novel on Sunday morning. Over morning coffee I read a fascinating news article that got the right side of my brain clicking on all cylinders. I grabbed a notebook and started brainstorming the story line. I had not been this excited about writing in weeks.
But here's the problem. I am deep into yet another revision of my historical novel. I had printed out some chapters and was editing for pacing and dialog. But it had been a dry week when nothing imaginative seemed to be coming forth. In all this deep revision work, I was using only my organized left brain to improve (ahem) my story. Last week I had also heard back from my agent that, sorry to say, my science book project still wasn't ready to send out. Even though I had emailed her with my new revision, insisting that I just couldn't do any more work on this. Couldn't we just send it out, even if it got a few rejections?
So by Sunday my right brain was screaming for attention and thus the desire to start a new story. This is not new for me. Over twenty years of writing, I have folders full of research and half completed stories. For me, revision is the hard part.
Recently I have been reading a lot about all this left brain/right brain research, including sections in two writing books. There seems to be a resurgence with new studies appearing every day. I am not going to try and explain it here. But you probably know the basics: organized left brain/freethinking right brain. After reading brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor's book My Stroke of Insight about her recovery from a stroke, and the power of the right brain, it finally sunk in.
My revision work had been flat because I was only using the left side of my brain. No wonder I wanted to start a new story. I made some notes about it and put it away - for now. My right brain will keep composting the story, I am sure. But more importantly, I made a conscious effort to let the right brain be more a part of my revision process. I considered my agent's comments and enjoyed trying them out - right brain style. l let my right brain help me figure out sections of the novel that weren't working and solutions that might. Not only have I been having more fun with my writing, but it's working. Using both sides with intention produces better writing.
This seems to be my new thing, so I have a feeling I'll be returning to the topic. Let me know. How do the two parts of the brain work in your revision process?