Thursday, January 13, 2011

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, January 13, 2011 25 comments
Obviously the best thing about being married to a left-handed person when you're right handed is you can hold hands and both still write. Cool, huh?

Beyond that, I've also discovered that handedness dictates one's orientation to the world. Thus, my hubby does a lot of things "backwards." Sometimes it's just puzzling. Other times I realized he's shown me an approach I'd never considered.

Take loading the dishwasher, for example. He loaded a stack of bowls the opposite direction I do--and they fit BETTER. Holy habituation, Batman! I'd never have tried that trick on my own.

I think this lesson has application to writing--especially when you're perplexed with a plot hole or an uncooperative character. Instead of plowing ahead full steam on your usual course, consider approaching from the opposite direction. Reorient. Perhaps you need to draft a scene from a secondary character's point of view in order to see your protagonist and his motivations more clearly. Perhaps your protagonist needs to react differently to her circumstances--opposite of what you've planned. Maybe the antagonist is a misunderstood hero, or the nice neighbor is a psycho.

Mental habits can be a tough obstacle to overcome. When you're most stuck, you might need to add more "lefties" to your circle of beta readers. Or you might try rearranging the furniture in your writing space or changing writing venues. You'll be surprised how a single turn can open new possibilities.

Have you experimented with approaching a problem from the opposite direction you usually take? How might reorienting help your writing?

25 comments:

  1. One approach I have is to change location. Sometimes even sitting on the floor helps my creativity and writing, as silly as it may sound! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a creative way to talk about thinking outside the box.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting! My dad's actually right handed for most things, but he writes with his left hand. It's odd. But you're right that a different perspective can help you get through tough spots. Even Neil Gaiman thanked Terry Pratchett (in the acknowledgements of American Gods) for helping him resolve a thorny plot issue. Sometimes it takes someone else to help us see what's right in front of our noses.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My little brother is my best idea guy. He reads all my stuff and listens to all my plot ideas first. And he is a lefty!!! Now I think I know why I love his opinion so much.

    ReplyDelete
  5. LOVE this!!!! (Though perhaps it's becuase I'm left handed, LOL!)

    Nice blog! :D

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great advice for trying to get through a sticky point in a manuscript.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've heard something about changing the font in your manuscript to give you a new perspective on your writing. Usually, I hand-write when I need to reorient. It often makes me slow down the scene and say only what I need to say...

    ReplyDelete
  8. you said "plot hole."

    OK, Beavis aside, this is great advice. I tried this in my last WIP, and I think it made a HUGE (good!) difference... And all that from a lefty~ ;p :o)

    ReplyDelete
  9. My twins are mirror image identicals, so one is right handed and the other's a lefty. It'll be interesting to see if they do this kind of thing. Neat post.

    Lynnette Labelle
    www.labelleseditorialservices.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think this also applies to using cliches in writing. I usually try to avoid using idioms because, while they get the point across, they don't really stand out.
    Incidentally, I'm a lefty and my partner-in-crime is a righty. This hardly ever makes things weird, but I cut a loaf of a bread last night and he came to cut a slice after me. He looked so strange trying to cut it and I couldn't figure out why he was attempting a small contortionist act just to get a slice of bread. I finally realized he was cutting with his right hand, which meant he had to put his left hand over his right to hold the bread in place. Blew my mind.

    ReplyDelete
  11. My brother and I have to make sure we are seated on the correct side before eating because I'm a righty and he eats lefty. I've bumped elbows with him many a times.

    Great advice, thanks. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Jade: Change of venue is a huge help. Different objects are in your line of sight, triggering new thoughts.

    Angela: Yeah, only someone as strange as me could come up with a blog post from watching my hubby load the dishwasher. LOL.

    Simon: Exactly. I count on you and Philly Literati a lot for giving me a different perspective, but at times it is possible to reorient on one's own if you're deliberate about it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Candice: Glad you have a helpful lefty in your life, too. All the brain science says they are prone to be better at intuitive, creative thinking.

    LB: Always happy to give props to lefties. They rock my world. :-)

    Susan: It's a theme I've been blogging about a lot lately. You can imagine why.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Melissa: I've tried the font change, and also putting double sided pages in a notebook so it's a more book-like reading experience, which does help when revising for flow.

    Leigh: Snarf. glad that reorienting worked for you.

    Lynette: How fascinating. I imagine they will grow up with different learning styles because of this--or at least the brain science suggests this.

    ReplyDelete
  15. JEM: Good point. And I can't tell you how many times I've had difficulty following my hubby's lead on some task. He got me filling the coffeemaker "backwards" which was making me spill like crazy--I eventually figured out how to adapt the task for myself. Oy!

    Kindros: My hubby is hyper aware about this, especially at restaurants.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I love this post. Sometimes I get stuck into thinking my way is the only way when it comes to writing. Several times I almost have an epiphany when I remember that it's my story and I really can write it in any way I choose. Thanks for the reminder!

    ReplyDelete
  17. That is AMAZING advice! Thanks Laurel!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hmm. You've got me thinking. I need to look at how I usually work and see if there are patterns that can be changed around a bit. Maybe purposely writing toward a direction I do not want to take? Yeah, I think I'll try that one. Thanks, Laurel!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Go lefties go! You have a great point. Looking at things backwards from your usually point of view might just help.

    ReplyDelete
  20. That's a wonderful advice. Looking at things in a different way has definitely helped me unravel sticky plot points in the past.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This is why I sometimes refuse to write on the computer. It's like I see from a different perspective if I'm holding a pen. Oddly enough, it's different AGAIN if I'm holding a pencil. Maybe because I associate pencils with sketching and pens with writing. Hmmm. I do need to get my desk cleaned up, though. That will also help improve perspective. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  22. Yes! Sometimes it takes doing something differently to see it in a new way. Great advice.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Bethany: It's very easy to get stuck in ruts and in the process not be able to get our stories where we want them to go. Glad this reminder was helpful.

    Colene: You're most welcome.

    Yat-Yee: Good luck with trying some opposite approaches!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Holly: Indeed--I think I've just made southpaws a hot commodity among beta readers. :-)

    Emy: When I've been stuck, I've sometimes had to go plot choice by plot choice and ask if the story would flow better if I took an opposite appoach.

    Victoria: I know what you mean. It's almost like I'm a different writer for each set of tools I use.

    Laura: The most powerful epiphanies are concrete, don't you think?

    ReplyDelete
  25. A different perspective is vital to conquer a creative block.

    As an art student we were encouraged to turn a painting/drawing upside down to get a better feel for where a 'problem area' is...or to walk out of the room for 15 minutes and back in again.

    On the computer, I will sometimes re-size my work - making it much smaller or bigger than the size I am working.

    When doing layouts for books for a publisher, I was always amazed by how many more errors the editors could find after it was typeset and in final proof stage. There is something about seeing something that looks finished that makes a problem jump out more.

    ReplyDelete