23/09/2010

Writing on Both Sides of the Brain (by Henriette Anne Klauser)

I knew nothing about Henriette Anne Klauser. But I kept seeing this book recommended on Amazon, based on my wishlist and general preferences. I read the reviews... I decided it probably wasn't worth having, since it's over twenty years old. I saw other reviews... I put it on my private wishlist. And then, when I had a discount for the Book Depository (which offers free postage to this country), I bought it there.

I have a large collection of writing books. Most of them are helpful in some ways. But 'Writing on Both Sides of the Brain' is one of the most inspiring books on writing that I have ever read. I only wish I'd found it sooner. It's is not a how-to manual, or a book of exercises to get started. It doesn't explain how to create plots, or how to write dialogue, or how to submit manuscripts to publishers. Instead, it gets to the root of so many writers procrastinate, give up part-way through novels, abandon ideas for short stories or articles, and - in general - don't get around to sending anything off to anyone. If they even finish something.

The author explains - broadly - how we have two sides to our brains related to writing: the creative, inspiring part and the critical, editing part. We need both, but at different times. We need to show the critical editor to the door when engaged in the first draft of anything, and invite him in, politely, when it's time to revise.

Various techniques are suggested in this book to get us in the right frame of mind for writing. One interesting idea is to get going very early in the morning. Branching diagrams (called 'creative search' elsewhere) are fully explained, as is the benefit of rapid writing (irrelevant of quality), ruminating, and much more.

Procrastinating tendencies are examined, with pointed questions asked, and the reader is freed from the victim mentality that blames circumstances, into the attitude that we can choose - if we wish - to write, or not. We may even be surprised that our apparent rubbish is not as bad as the internal editor feared.

I was slightly dubious about the final section on meditation which seemed almost to suggest a 'spirit guide' in the form of a famous author, but it was only a brief addendum. The rest of the book was excellent. A little dated, in that computers were only mentioned at the end as a possibility, rather than the norm- but other than that, it could have been written far more recently.

Very highly recommended to anyone who writes - or would like to write - anything.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 23rd September 2010

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