Monday, February 27, 2012

A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future

Did you grow up thinking you were an alien on a very strange planet, because you liked to daydream and doodle and muse over words and invent weird plots for stories?  Even as an adult, until I became a writing teacher and started publishing those plots in books and stories, I worried a little that my brain was not working like everyone else's.

I got good training in how to think linearly, but I really preferred thinking from a global view, seeing patterns and systems and how the disparate pieces intertwined, rather than looking at their separate and orderly parts.

Daniel H. Pink's well-loved book, A Whole New Mind:  Why Right Brainers Will Rule the World, gave me hope.  I wasn't crazy.  I was just a right-brainer.  Many writers are.  Especially book writers, who need to have a holistic view to make their books work for readers.

Pink is the also author of Drive, which is about human motivation.  He understands the brain and how it works--especially for creative thinkers like book writers--and I find his theories helpful in my classes.  For 12 years I've been trying to help book writers learn the right-brain skills that will make their books read as a whole rather than a series of parts.

Cultivating a Holistic Viewpoint--Your Book Needs It
Holistic viewpoints are the work of the right brain.  While the left brain, as I understand it, sees things in sequence and in part, the right brain sees the whole.  Many book writers find themselves at a loss when trying to create this holistic feel to their book.  Chapters come across as individual units rather than part of a larger whole. 

Two skills that Pink describes--narrative and design--are born in the right hemisphere and are useful when you want to make your manuscript feel like one instead of many.

The first, narrative, might seem obvious.  After all, we're book writers, we have a narrator, we write narrative.  But do we really?

Narrative is actually the aspect of story that I call "flow" or pacing.  Strong narrative keeps a reader reading. The flow is like a strong river.  It's often simply a matter of good transitions, how fast you deliver your information, and excellent design. 

Design is about making a story logical yet also appealing to the aesthetic senses.  We consider design when we think about knowing how much to add, and how much to just imply.  It's about skillfully shaping your book with enough image to fire the imagination of the reader.   

This week, your weekly writing exercise is to find a copy and try one of the Portfolio exercises on narrative or design that Pink offers.  Let me know how your right brain likes it.

And check out Pink's other writing at this link.