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This week we've been exploring the role of conflict in story, and today I'd like to address the conflict involved in writing story. I've been working through a book by Dr. Karen Peterson titled Write. 10 Days to Overcome Writer's Block. Period. It's one of the many 'how to' books that I've purchased with great intentions over the years, but languish unread on my bookshelf. I discovered that this book is chock full of graphs, lists and fill-in-the-blanks designed to help writers find what works best for them to keep the ideas flowing. According to the good psychologist, the conflict springs from the fact that our brains have two halves - left and right. Now, at the risk of doing an injustice to her ideas, I will attempt to reduce the conflict down to a nutshell.
'Just do it' vs. 'Just say no'
Basically, people can be divided into either left-brain dominant or right-brain dominant. The left brain's motto is 'just do it' and the right brain's is 'just say 'no." Regardless of which one is dominant for us, we still have to get the two halves to agree about when, where and how we will write before we can accomplish anything. "This means that, even though the logical left brain may exhort us to write, the right brain remembers every hypercritical voice we've ever heard, and is more than happy to replay them, en masse, every time we try to write." (page 13)
'Fight' or 'Flight'
In addition, the right-brain is responsible for the 'fight or flight' and 'freeze' responses, which can be triggered by a desk piled high with stacks of unfinished projects or a blank page with a mind-numbing blinking cursor. The left-brain is admonishing us to just accomplish something in whatever time is available, but the right-brain wants a huge block of time and the certainty of a finished product at the end of it. Now, since I also have a full-time job, this particular conflict waged every time I sat down to write - so I sharpened my Ticonderoga #2 pencil and went at it.
The charts and graphs are to be completed once with your dominant hand and once with your non-dominant. It was hard to believe that changing hands could produce different results. Surprisingly, I did end up with some different answers which led to the discovery that a slight adjustment in the time of day that I have available to write can make a big difference. Nothing earth-shattering, but if it helps me be more productive, why not! There are more conflicts in writing than I knew about, such as whether I needed a clean or cluttered space, a quiet or loud environment, food, drink and what kind, to make lists & subtasks or to ignore them. Some weren't just a matter of preference - there was left/right-brain trash-talking going on without my knowledge.
I'm only half-way through the book and the exercises, so I look forward to making some significant changes and fine-tuning soon. Are there any how-to books that have surprised you with the results? Are you confident that you already have a handle on what works for you, or are you open to trying something new? We'd love to hear!