Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Right Brain or Left Brain?

I'm not sure why I come here.

By training, experience, and natural talent I'm a totally left-brained, detail-oriented, organization freak. I've been working professionally in technical areas for well over 26 years, not counting tinkering with things at home when I was a kid. I've had a hand in the design of night vision tank sights, missile seekers, missile guidance electronics, night vision components, airborne surveillance systems, elevator controllers, whole elevator systems, and remote monitoring systems. I can take just about anything apart and put it back together again and actually have it still work. Or even work better. It's a gas to figure out solutions to problems and think through plans to make things work. Even planning daily schedules for visiting Disneyworld and figuring the meals within the confines of the Disney Meal plan. That last one we just did and came back from. Subject of some other blog.

On the other hand, I've felt a pull to write for years; even longer than I've been working in technical fields. As stated earlier, I just finished NaNoWriMo this year, successfully getting over 50,000 words of a mostly coherent novel down on virtual paper. Although it's not commercial at this point, it's possible that it could be with more work. Meanwhile, I had previously written over a dozen complete short stories in pretty much final form. A few years ago I sent a couple in to some writing contests and they didn't win. Now, emboldened by NaNo success, I've polished a few of them even further and have already sent one in to Glimmer Train's Fiction Open contest. We'll see. My kids think it's a good story even though it involves a dysfunctional family. What do I know about dysfunctional families? Ours is, thankfully, fully functional and I come from a family where we all have the same last names. But I can observe. And I've found things to say. I guess I have some opinions. And it's a gas to create characters that interact and do things and make decisions, right or wrong, and see what happens to them. I've read so much over the years that I have an itch to make some of my own.

Is writing a story or a novel so different than tinkering with broken appliances at home? Or building a treehouse for the kids? Or applying a new elevator technology to a building? Each requires understanding the materials and how they work together, visualizing a finished product and the steps to get there, and gutting it out until it's done, overcoming all the problems that crop up along the way. Gee, sounds simple. Both require creativity and knowledge of the language being used and a willingness to work even when one doesn't feel like it. In the case of engineering projects, the language is mathematics and physics, form and space. For writing, it's a little more obvious.

So how does one learn all these languages? In my case, I read a lot when I was a child. My Mom being an elementary school teacher probably had something to do with that. When parents are vitally interested in the development of their children, strongly nurturing reading seems to always be a part. So I read and I read and I read some more. My first memory of creative writing is from the fifth grade. We were asked to describe a forest and I wrote something to the effect that it was a large group of overgrown toothpicks. I thought I as terribly witty, my teacher thought I had a screw loose.

My creative expression began to blossom into artwork and music about then and I stayed there through high school, although I always did better at math and science. Along the way I had an art project put on display in a city art exhibition in Seattle, I played in school bands and orchestras, and was reprimanded once for drawing on my desk in math class (was I bored or what?). I sketched and doodled and made bulletin board figures for my mom's classroom. I played in concerts, marched in competitions and at football games, and played in the Regional Band and a regional Youth Symphony.

My only writing memory from that time was when I was a senior in high school. That year, we had to choose English classes based on their topic and for some reason I took one called "Gothic Novels". I had actually read Daphne Dumaurier's 'House on the Strand' some time before then so I knew what Gothic Novel's are/were and somehow it must have sounded more interesting than diagramming sentences, a skill I never have learned. In the class, we read 'The Ivy Tree' and 'The House on the Strand' and discussed the elements of a Gothic Novel, what today would probably fall squarely into the Romance Novel genre. Then we wrote a fragment of our own Gothic Novel. I don't know if I have the paper I wrote for that any longer, that was thirty years ago, after all, but my fragment was a scene where the beautiful but troubled heroine was aboard a passenger liner at the beginning of World War I and the ship was torpedoed and sank. She floated ashore on some desert island and woke up seeing a handsome, though troubled, man approaching. He would have become the fatally flawed hero if the story had grown into a complete Gothic Novel. So, I dashed all that down in one sitting the night before it was due and typed it up and turned it in. When I got it back, graded, I was dumbfounded to see I earned an A and the teacher's remark "It's great to finally see a senior who can actually write!"

I went from there to Engineering School and on to a career designing and managing the design of the aforementioned technical doodads, got married, got saved, had a family, and all the while the thought that 'I could do that' raised itself in my mind whenever I read anything in fiction. Every few years I felt it surface and as it tried to motivate me to action but the engine wouldn't start. I finally began seriously acting on that thought about five years ago, producing a small raft of short stories and about a half dozen novel starts. I attempted NaNo several years ago but didn't have enough momentum to do anything with it. Then, this year, I talked my daughter into going into it with me and presto, I'm on a roll again. It helps that she's showing an aptitude for writing at least as much as my own, if not more (see her blog at 'Good and Salty'). Iron sharpens iron, after all.

Now, I've got a draft of something I could finish if I wanted to, the dozen or so finished shorts I'm going to try to sell, and who knows what from here? My wife says I can buy myself a pair of Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones when I sell my first story. Now there's motivation!

So, am I right-brained or left-brained? Who cares? As long as I'm doing what God wants me to do, when He wants me to do it, He'll give me the tools I need at the time. He can shift me over from one half of my brain to the other at Will. Perhaps he's made me just this way to have some of each. I've been a lot of left-brain for my career so far but the right-side wants in on the action now. Maybe it helps that I'm left-handed.


Post a Comment

<< Home