Left Brain/Right Brain
If you've talked to me in the past year and a half, you've probably heard me passionately ramble on about brain hemispheres. When I first started exploring my left and right brain, and the ways they work together, it changed my perspective and my life so swiftly that I sometimes felt like running out in the streets and shouting about it to anyone who could hear. I've calmed down a bit, but the awareness I developed remains helpful to me pretty much daily. I'm constantly exploring both how I work and how best to interact with others.
OK, here is a basic summary
*More resources below if you're interested in learning this stuff more in depth
In the 1960's, neuroscience findings showed that humans possess two, almost completely independent brains, known simply as the left and right brain. They are connected by the corpus callosum, the only bridge that transmits neural signals between the two sides. Studies of people with defective or severed corpus callosums showed little difference in standard functions of the brain, and also helped us understand better how each brain thinks.
See the chart below for an intro:
Here come my favorite parts:
1. You are pretty often interpreting with one side of your brain, and there are simple tests to figure out which side of the brain you favor in any given moment.
2. You can actively observe yourself switching brains (my personal favorite way to do this is to check your awareness of time--linear time is processed in the left brain, not the right, which is why your awareness of time diminishes when you're in a creative flow state, but there are myriad ways: you could look at a word for long enough that you start to see it's shape more than its meaning - also fun)
3. You can hone your awareness and streamline the switch process, utilizing the side that's best for any given activity, and communicating more efficiently with friends, coworkers, and collaborators.
**IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: the research around this theory has proven the interchange of the two sides to be more nuanced than simply 'one or the other', BUT as a person who struggled with a stubborn 'logic side' that inhibited my quiet, less linear artistic voice, separating and understanding each brain was incredibly invaluable to me.
One Book That Changed Everything
I first learned about this brain stuff in an acting class with Lesly Kahn, which directed me to a book that, with no exaggeration, changed me as an artist (and probably a person). The book is called Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain, by Betty Edwards. Originally published in 1979, it has been revised and reprinted many times, and is used as the basis for workshops with the author to this day. Betty's most recent blog on March 20, 2020 offers the intro lessons covered in her book in a 2 hour video course for $12.50.
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain isn't just a way to learn to draw; it's a straightforward and practical discovery of the limitless skill and creativity most people don't know they have. It is a gentle venture into the hemisphere not valued or honed as much in traditional society and schooling. For me, it was a way to relax out of the thoughts and processes that don't help me in creative tasks, and embrace the parts of my brain that do.
The concept did a few things for me: most obviously, perhaps, it proved (after never drawing seriously and not trying to do so for over a decade) that I can f**king draw. It helped me ease off on self analysis and have more fun with acting, singing, and dancing moments. It helped me improvise more freely. It also got me thinking about the people in my life and their own brain balance. Shane, for instance, has a highly developed and utilized right brain (although when motivated to do so, he can be very analytical and wordy). My dad seems super right brained (he's a musician). My mom is more left brained (she's an executive assistant to a CEO). My brother seems pretty even-keel: sound logic with a deep love of getting lost in music (he runs a golf course). I know dancers who need counts (5-6-7-8's) when learning a combination (lefties) and others who despise counts and couldn't find them if they tried (righties), and every type in between. I used to worship the counts, but in working and auditioning for so many types of choreographers, it became valuable to learn by hearing the music more as a holistic picture of rhythm and melody (not my strong suit, but I can relax into it). One of the coolest things I tapped into by giving my right brain a little more space and attention, was the realization that ideas tend to flow when you release analysis and planning. Perhaps that's why our best ideas come when we 'zone out' and drift into the right brain: in the shower, on a long drive or run, or (in my case) a little bit high while I groove in my bathroom mirror before bed...
Quarantine Life has gifted me time to finally experiment with color in detail:
This is all not to say that the left brain is 'bad for creativity', although Betty Edwards has a theory that the left hemisphere tends to be bossy and controlling and the right hemisphere doesn't have language or linear logic 'to defend itself'. It just means you're equipped for a lot of tasks, and you don't have to drill everything with logic. You can hone the use of either side with a little awareness.
*Here are helpful articles for summarizing early left/right brain research with today's understanding:
Annnd here are some fun, basic tests that show you which side of the brain you favor, if any. (*Don't forget the disclaimer above):