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The Writing Brain
by William T. Delamar

"Your mind is you. Steady the mind, and you steer success."
- F. D. Van Amburgh, 1923

An interesting book, Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking, by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero reinforces the thought that both feelings (right brain) and critical thinking (left brain) are essential in what we do. It's a quick read, but thought-expanding. One thought evoked by the book is that critical thinking reduces mistakes, thus reducing assaults on your self esteem, thus reducing the need for defense mechanisms and rationalizations, thus improving critical thinking. It's a self-developing, self- perpetuating process which helps you to fine-tune the presentation of your feelings in words. 

Guy Chapman, in the introduction to a book by Jean Rounault, My Friend Vassie, made a thought-provoking comment. He said, "...in rewriting from memory, one recalls the time and the circumstances, the attitudes, the emphasis and the sense, but only occasionally the words." What he has described as memorable are right brain functions. The left brain functions, the language (words) are not held with such precision. He wrote this in 1952 before the significant research on right/left brain function. His observations were based upon basic human behavior. We do remember (retain) the right brain impressions. We do, eventually, lose the left brain data. 

What we must be able to do is put language to the right brain impressions, conveying them into the left brain system so we can communicate them effectively. That's what we, as writers, do in both fiction and nonfiction. In fiction, we can each take the same impressions or images from the right brain and write different stories. In nonfiction, the facts we are dealing with and the editor in the left brain will keep us closer together. 

It's not clear which side of the brain, if either, initiates the matching of language and image. Logic, a left brain function, says it's the left brain doing the work, but this can be put into reverse. Do we also put images to words? When we write, do we sometimes conjure up an image to match a set of words? 

One has to keep working at the craft while instilling creativity. It takes both sides of the brain to make a complete piece of work. It's not easy. One doesn't become a writer by just announcing it. We must set our own standards of excellence and then never lose sight of it. It doesn't matter what others do. What matters is what we do. It's fine to win a contest. It's good affirmation. But what's more important is that we keep improving, that we keep working to make the craft as good as our creativity, and to propel the creativity beyond the craft. Each improves the other. 

It's a long and dedicated process. 

One thing is clear. The product is better when the two sides of the brain work in a collaborative partnership. Long before Robert Ornstein and others, through surgery, studies, and research, proved the different functions of the two sides of our brains, Guy Chapman saw them in action, and left something for us, as writers, to think about. 

It gives a different meaning to the term, "Get your act together." 

-  © William T. Delamar 

Quotes about the Mind and Thinking

"Literary people are forever judging the quality of the mind by the turn of expression."
- Frank Moore Colby 
 
 

"Words are the supreme objects. They are minded things."
- William Gass 


 "What can any of us do with his talent but try to develop his vision, so that through frequent failures we may learn better what we have missed in the past."
- William Carlos Williams 
 

"The novel . . . is a product of the free mind, of the autonomous individual."
- George Orwell 


 "Talent, and genius as well, is like a grain of pearl sand shifting about in the creative mind. A valued tormenter." 
- Truman Capote 
 

"Writing is a yoga that invites Lord mind."
- Allen Ginsberg
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