Wonder//

Why I Always Let My Right-Brain Lead The Way

I’ve learned to blindly trust my creative instincts.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Recently I sat down at my computer thinking about a conversation about online education I had with a neighbor, which led me to search YouTube for videos about editing and writing. Next thing I know, I’m remembering my favorite high school A.P. English teacher and trying to recall whether she wore black and white saddle shoes or red Converse high-tops. Footwear questions aside, it was a lovely surprise to find myself thinking and writing about a beloved teacher who hasn’t crossed my mind in years, an incredible woman who died young but influenced my whole life.

When I got up from my desk after an hour of writing, I’d danced down memory lane and wound up in a place I never, ever expected. It was a treat, really. Yet if I hadn’t plonked myself down in front my keyboard and just started typing, I wouldn’t have started down the path, let alone ended up where I did. Over the years, I’ve learned that when the right side of my brain kicks in, I never know where I’m going, let alone how I’m going to get there. In this pure, almost hypnotic state, time races yet stands stock-still. I am both completely focused and entirely relaxed. I am, as they say, in the zone.

In his memoir, On The Move: A Life, renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote,

The act of writing, when it goes well, gives me a pleasure, a joy, unlike any other. It takes me to another place — irrespective of my subject — where I am totally absorbed and oblivious to distracting thoughts, worries, preoccupations or indeed the passage of time. In those rare, heavenly states of mind, I may write nonstop until I can no longer see the paper. Only then do I realize that evening has come and that I have been writing all day.

I know exactly what Mr. Sacks means. Of course, this “heavenly” experience isn’t limited to writing. A few years ago, I spent a lot of time focused on painting and other visual arts. I know what it’s like to stare (blankly) at a blank canvas, take a deep breath and then make my first, often tentative brushstroke. Slowly — or sometimes quickly — an image or impression begins to emerge. With painting, my right brain led me to reach for new colors and different brushes to explore and convey ideas, shapes and marks on the canvas. When I’m writing, it helps me gather images, associations and connections from all directions and weave them together with linguistic threads.

In both painting and writing, the failures are as important as the successes. Sometimes a canvas or a sentence — or the whole darn thing — needs to be deleted with white gesso or a few keystrokes. Either way, the shadow of that erasure still exists, and it informs all the marks or words that follow. Getting it “right” means cutting, culling, pruning, parsing. It takes time. Patience. Discipline. And trust.

Maybe that’s the biggest hurdle of all. I’ve learned to implicitly trust the right side of my brain when it beckons me down an unexplored path and lets me creatively meander and roam. Without fail, it leads me on a journey that somehow, always, gets me exactly where I need to be.


Willow Older is a nationally and internationally published writer and a long-time professional editor. She lives in Northern California where she runs her own editorial services business and publishes a weekly newsletter called Newsy!.

Originally published at medium.com

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.