The Creative Zone
For writers, the Creative Zone is a wonderful place to be. The Zone is where everything seems possible, our thoughts fly free and words just flow onto the page without any struggle or effort. Although the work we produce in The Zone will need to be shaped and edited at a later date, it is in The Zone – this magical place – that we weave and spin the raw material that forms the basis of our finished writing.
The Zone may be a difficult place to describe but we usually recognise it when we get there. In a previous post, I listed the 7 signs of being in The Zone. Are you writing in The Zone? 7 key signs
Most of us fall into The Zone as if by accident. We love it. But, of course, we have to return to real life eventually. Next time we sit down to write – when we deliberately set out to get back into The Zone – guess what? We can’t find our way. And the more we try, the harder it seems.
If only we knew where it was…
Where is The Zone?
Does The Zone really exist as an anatomical entity in our brains? And, if so, where is it?
You will be familiar with diagrams that show the cerebral cortex of our brain is divided into two halves or two hemispheres – one on the left and one on the right. Each hemisphere is responsible for controlling different functions of our body.
Rather confusingly, the left side of our brain controls the muscles of our right arm and leg. While the right side controls our left limbs.
And here is an interesting fact: The speech centre of our brain is situated within the left hemisphere. Speech is on the left. Remember that.
There is a hypothetical model that takes the idea of separate functions even further. This is often called the left v. right model of the brain and it can be summarised as follows:
- Left side of brain: analytical and logical.
- Right side of brain: artistic and creative.
Let’s look at this model in a little more detail and relate it to the artistic process.
The left hand side of the brain is responsible for analytic and critical thinking. It keeps time, understands maths, follows rules, controls language.
If you are a painter, the left side of your brain helps you deal with choosing your raw material – paper, paint, brushes. As you paint, it judges size and perspective and tonal values and deals with the logistics of colour mixing.
If you are a writer, the left side of your brain sorts out the spelling and the grammar and checks the consistency of descriptive details as your story progresses. It checks for holes in the plot and considers whether your story arc needs adjusting and deals with word count and makes indexes and lists references.
The left side of your brain may sound a little boring but plays a vital role. It is the task-master, the check-list maker, the editor, the critic.
The right side of the brain is a wild child in comparison. It is illogical, a fun-seeker, the spinner of dreams. The right side does not understand the passing of time. It ignores rules and allows us to think laterally – spinning ideas off into all sorts of new directions. It deals with shapes and colours and patterns and emotional reactions. It avoids labels and avoids words.
If you are a painter, the right side of your brain deals with colours and shapes. It tells you to place this brush stroke here and to draw that line over there. While painting in The Zone, you can’t explain why you are making this particular choice with colours or lines or strokes – you just know that it feels right.
If you are a writer, the right side of your brain generates the ideas and constructs the vivid, imaginary worlds you inhabit. The right side produces your make-believe characters who seem to come alive and may act and talk and behave as if they were outside of your conscious control. While in The Zone, this imaginary world becomes real and your work seems to write itself.
Eureka! We’ve found it. The right hand side of the brain, it seems, is where The Zone must lie.
Light bulb moment: All we need to do is to find a switch to turn-on the right side of our brain and turn-off the left.
BUT – hang on – what about WORDS?
Didn’t we just say that the right side of your brain avoids words?
Yes. That’s what the model says. Speech is on the left. When you are working on the right side of your brain, words are not part of your world. You are speechless.
Perhaps speechlessness may not matter for artists – but what about writers? For writers, words are the vital stuff from which all our creative work flows. They are the iron in our alchemy. They are the atoms in our universe.
Without words, we are nothing!
Sigh. It all seemed far too easy to be really true.
We are left with a burning question:
If The Zone is not lodged in the right side of our cerebral cortex, where the heck is it? And does it matter? Well, that brings me back to the opening sentence of this post. If only we knew where it was, perhaps it would be easier to get there. Let’s keep looking…