Right or left?

No, I’m not talking about the election–GO OBAMA!–really, I think we should all go back to normal (huge sighs of relief and gratitude)–and so I thought I’d share with you this fascinating blog post by Trish Jackson about right-handed or left-handed characteristics.

Now I come out consistently right-handed.  In popular writing terms right-handed people are pantsers, left-handed people are plotters. Some people are a mix but apparently I’m not, which surprised me because in some things I am very structured. But it may explain why to spend my time productively I must make lists otherwise I am all over the place.

I’ve bemoaned frequently the fact that I have trouble with plotting, typical of a right-handed person. At the moment I am struggling with a synopsis–this is the book where the hero sits on a cat (which is unharmed. Heck, I can’t afford to lose readers) and playing around with the “marriage in name only” trope which I’ve ranted about before.

I’m one chapter into the book and already the hero has changed professions, the heroine’s name has changed three times, and she’s lost her title and changed her marital status. Since the hero has changed professions I cannot use the title (of the book) I intended but the new one opens up all sorts of ripe possibilities. I don’t have a handle on the heroine yet, as you probably guessed, but the hero is adorable (despite sitting on the cat). His parents are both still alive and they live with him. He’s a man who’s pulled himself up by his bootstraps etc and he’s buying his way into gentility. I even had the bright idea of making him a Quaker,  but he’s really not the sort of guy who’d spend time sitting quietly.

So first I want to know if you took the test and if you’re right- or left-handed and whether the results surprised you. I guess the question is can you make yourself more one than the other. How? Any ideas?

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10 years ago

Based on this I’m definitely right-brained, but since I’m lefthanded I think I need to reverse the analysis.

Diane Gaston
10 years ago

Same as you, Susan/DC. I’m left handed but I was predominantly right-brained. I could once turn the spinning lady to counter clockwise and then back, but I couldn’t repeat it.

And then she stopped spinning at all. That’s a no-brainer!!!

And I am about midway between a pantser and a plotter, with an emphasis on pantster

Melody May
10 years ago

I’m so right-brain that its not even funny. I’m so emotional and I write my reviews by the seat of my pants. Sometimes it goes well and others not so much. Plus, I’m right-handed.

Elena Greene
10 years ago

She starts out clockwise for me but I can make her go counter-clockwise.

I’m somewhere between a plotter and pantser too. I start out with a general idea but things often change in the writing process.

Carolyn Jewel
10 years ago

Well. I am always bothered by factual statements that don’t come supported by proof. That sounds so plotter/left brained of me, doesn’t it? I cannot stand being late. I hate when others are not punctual. In my day-to-day life, I am bothered like you wouldn’t believe when something happens to upset my schedule. Hate. It. I prefer certainty. I don’t think I could devise a vacation that did not include a schedule, for example. It would stress me out no end.

In my day job, I am a DBA — a highly structured set and math based job. I am not particularly good at math, by the way.

As to the handedness issue, I am predominately right-handed. But I do a lot of things left-handed. I can write left landed and if I am really tired, I have been known to write left handed without realizing it.

And yet.

I am a total pantser. Plotting destroyed my ability to write. Destroyed it. I know, because I tried.

The whole left-brain right-brain view may well be in the middle of being debunked.

This wikipedia article on lateralization of brain function: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralization_of_brain_function does not support the too simple view (in my opinion) that people are either left or right brain thinkers.

This recent Psychology Today article on the subject: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-myths/201206/why-the-left-brain-right-brain-myth-will-probably-never-die discusses how such dichotomic thinking does a disservice to the actual complexity of brain function and points out some major issues with the studies that first posed the whole right/left brain theory.

Lastly, if it were true, as implied in the blog post, that the right-brainers are the creative types, how on earth would a left-brained plotter sort ever write fiction? But they do. Lots of writers are plotters and their books are great!
Lots of writers are pantsers, and their books are great, too.

There’s so much more to say about this slippery slope of categorization in a real world that, in fact, has no categories at all. Humans observe through the bias of their biology and physiology. We see patterns where, actually, there are none.

But I’m still a pantser, which I happily confess to because that’s the language we have right now to describe certain observations about the behavior of writers.

Janet Mullany
10 years ago

Interesting, Carolyn. I think it’s altogether too simplistic a theory. I’ve long been jealous of people who can plot things out in diagrams or spreadsheets in great detail, but they may be jealous of my method for some reason. Who has the more fun? Or sells more books? I think the answer is, for the second question, those who write a lot and keep writing on a steady basis. You have to keep producing and how you do it may lead to some interesting theories, but if it works it works.

Elena Greene
10 years ago

Carolyn, your reply has me thinking about my husband’s stroke (which was to the left brain) and how it has affected things. He lost and still hasn’t regained a lot of his language and math skills. But he is now much better at picking up non-verbal cues. And it isn’t that he has learned this as an adaptation. I noticed a heightened sensitivity to others’ emotions right there in the hospital within a day after the stroke. It’s as if something he hadn’t been using was uncovered when he lost skills from the other side which I think were dominant before.

So I do think there’s some “sidedness” going on, but it is much more complex than it is sometimes framed.

I don’t fit in either extreme myself, and I need to change my creative process at times.

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