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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Editor and the Muse

Which side of your brain do you use in writing? All of us are dominate in one side of our brains, but which side is the best to use for your latest manuscript? Let’s take a look at the traits of both (see links to the right for a thorough list of characteristics). To sum it up briefly:

Left side = logical/methodical/organized
Right side = creative/spontaneous/artsy

Kirt Hickman (http://kirthickman.com/) led a lovely workshop on revising fiction during the RMFW conference, and he called these brain sections the Editor and the Muse. When you’re in the trenches of revisions, the Editor is the way to go, but Kirt encourages first drafts to be given in large part to the Muse.

Now this may seem like an easy path to take (who wouldn't want to be given free reign with their pages?), but what if you are a left-brained person by nature (guilty)? How can you encourage your Muse to take over and reap the benefits of her creativity? Mr. Hickman had a few suggestions for nurturing the Muse:

1) Get up very early to write, especially if you are not a morning person. Your Editor needs sleep, but your Muse does not. Your Muse is a late-night, party on, anytime-is-good-for-dreaming type of gal. Go ahead and force yourself to scribble down words and later look at the text to see if anything is salvageable. If you're a morning person, do it late at night, when your Editor has turned in for the evening.

2) Write by hand on unlined paper. Typing is a Left-Brained-Editor activity, but writing cursive is a Right-Brained-Muse activity. Your Editor likes boundaries and lines, your Muse does not.

3) Don’t stop to revise mid-sentence/paragraph or your Editor will wake up and take over, with no promise of handing the page back to the Muse anytime soon (Editors will tell you to go make coffee and take a shower and check the weather before deciding on an outfit and then maybe go back to writing when your properly organized for the day).

4) Don’t stop to research. Do your really know what Spain looks like in the Springtime? Maybe not, but go ahead and make it up. Corrections and additions can come later.

Now, those of you who are right-brained, you probably have your share of problems too. Maybe you create more subplots than necessary or spend five paragraphs describing a blade of grass in your character’s hand, then drift into how he played soccer as a youth and loved the smell of grass, and then spend five more paragraphs comparing the smell to different things. For all I know, you Righties may need tips on nurturing your Editor. Sorry, those didn't come up during the presentation (but maybe I'll do a post on that later).

I often wish I could let go more with my writing, but my Editor interrupts me too much (“Hey! You used that adjective last page, change it!” or “Wait a minute, watch the backstory…and is that your third character whose name starts with the letter B?”). After listening to Kirt’s talk, I’m convinced that I should find the time for some free-writing, sans keyboard and outline. Now I just need to logically plan out the time to do it (tee-hee).

Are you right-brained or left, and how does that affect your writing?

Do you find that your Editor and Muse work well together or do they clash noggins occasionally, like mine do?


  1. This is soooo interesting! I'm going to have to do some things to help my Muse do its work while the Editor sleeps. I do everything at the computer so I'm going to try some pencil and paper and see how that goes:)

  2. I love your tips. I'm an early morning person, and the idea of writing late at night is intriguing. Good tip too about writing longhand. I only do that when I'm in writing class, and it always amazed me what I came up with. I should try it on my own!