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Nano Tip #23: Change Your Brain

November 24th, 2009

So . . . you’re more than two-thirds done with NaNoWriMo, and maybe you’re starting to crumple a bit. Your dialog sounds forced, your action scenes are flat, and your plot twists have all turned to spaghetti. What can you do to break out of this slump?

Here’s my tip for the day: change your brain!

“Um, what now?” you may ask. Allow me to explain . . .


This tip was inspired by a recent article in the journal Brain and Cognition, about how traffic levels between the two hemispheres of your brain affects thinking. Researchers found that any activity that promoted neural cross-talk in test subjects also promoted creativity.

In other words, if you can get the two halves of your brain talking, you’ll be more likely to find inspiration. And it’s easier than you think.

(A quick note before I go on: most of the right-brain, left-brain stuff people repeat is total rubbish. There isn’t a “creative lobe” on one side of your head and an “analytical lobe” on the other. Both sides of your brain perform both analytic and creative tasks. The key here is to make them talk to each other.)

In this study, the subjects moved their eyes back and forth along a horizontal axis, like when you’re watching a tennis match. (Or a really boring game of Pong.) After thirty seconds of eye exercise, the subjects gained about ten minutes’ worth of improved scores on various creativity tests.

So if you need a quick hit of creativity, try looking from right to left for thirty seconds and see what happens.

Of course, you can’t move your eyes back and forth every ten minutes of your writing day. That would be dizzying and tedious. So how do you keep your creativity levels high for, say, all of November?

Luckily, there’s evidence that you can improve cross-talk levels (and thus creativity) on a permanent basis, simply by pretending that you’re left handed.

Here’s the thing: left-handed and ambidextrous subjects had no benefit from the eye movements in this study. In fact, in some studies lefties and ambies seem to get stupider after cross-talk exercises. Many scientists think that’s because lefties and ambies already operate at an optimal level of cross-talk, generated by the fact that the world is designed for right-handed people.

That’s right, all those rightie-baised scissors make lefties more creative.

Or to say it another way, being challenged by the world wires your brain for creativity!

So here’s my exercise for you today: Pretend you’re left handed. Open doors, eat, and mouse with your left hand for a day or so. You’ll be promoting cross-talk in your brain, and rewiring yourself for creativity. It may feel weird, but it should give your creative juices a boost.

And for those of you who are already left-handed or ambidextrous? Hey, you don’t need my help. You’re already creative geniuses! (Or rather, you’re already operating at optimal cross-talk levels, so you’ll have to find some other trick to make yourself smarter. Sorry!)

That’s it for today! Don’t forget to check out Justine’s posts on the even-numbered days of November. See you on the 25th.

39 Responses to “Nano Tip #23: Change Your Brain”

  1. 1
    November 24th, 2009 01:29

    WOW! You wrote a blog from the future! That’s amazing!!

  2. 2
    November 24th, 2009 01:32

    yeah, i was going to say that too!
    you wrote this blog a day ahead!
    great tip btw :D

  3. 3
    November 24th, 2009 01:58

    Wow, that’s so interesting! I’m a rightie, so I think I’ll try that! Thanks for the idea! :)

  4. 4
    November 24th, 2009 02:01

    I’m doing it now. I think I’ll tell my left handed friends about this. Thanks, good tip!

  5. 5
    November 24th, 2009 02:38

    Deffo doing tomorrow. I haz twittered it, it must be true. BTW, thanks for the retweet, Scott-la!

  6. 6
    Rhiannon Hart
    November 24th, 2009 02:43

    Crap! Crap! I did the eye excercises before I realised they were bad for left-handers! Noooooooo…

    Hehe, the world is SO designed for righties. Especially scissors. Goddamn scissors.

  7. 7
    November 24th, 2009 03:16

    And that’s exactly why I love being a leftie. ^_^

    Actually, that’s a really interesting point I hadn’t heard before. People always arbitrarily say that “left-handed people are more creative” without a reason why, but it makes sense that the creativity is a result of a the left handedness rather than the cause.

    I guess I can hate scissors a little less now!

  8. 8
    November 24th, 2009 03:35

    Yeah, so next time some leftie tells me that they’re more creative and that the world should be designed for lefties then I can say that then us righties would be more creative.
    Well I’ve gone left handed for about four hours now. At first it was kinda hard, but not it’s getting easier. I’m achually second guessing myself because I’m not sure what hand I would normally pick up toast or something- it feels right both ways. haha

  9. 9
    November 24th, 2009 03:57

    I’m trying to figure out if I can knit left handed this evening but I will certainly try and see how many people I can weird out by pretending to be left handed. ^_^

  10. 10
    Team Toshi Banana
    November 24th, 2009 04:09

    That’s really cool! My right-handed friend took all her Latin class notes with her left hand and she aced the tests… I’m so trying that! :D My nanowrimo novel is kind of falling apart right now… I’ll try anything to get it back on track! :D

  11. 11
    November 24th, 2009 05:01

    No point, just a leftie story: I remember in kindergarten I got so fed up with the right-handed scissors that I TORE the shape of an apple, including a green leaf for the stem, instead of cutting. While the edges were jagged, it was still a very good likeness of an apple. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as good at conveying the fact that the scissors were the problem as I was at tearing the shape of an apple, so my teacher gave me a Needs Improvement on my cutting skills.

  12. 12
    November 24th, 2009 05:12

    *is mousing with their left hand insted of right hand to challenge self* im going to try the left-hand thing but ill probably bass ackwards for the rest of the week because of it. XD

  13. 13
    November 24th, 2009 06:10

    Ugh! I’m left-handed. :( Great post anyway for righties.

  14. 14
    November 24th, 2009 06:39

    Mwahahahaha! Leftie here!

  15. 15
    November 24th, 2009 06:42

    i shall try that! i have writers block right now so that is my thing for tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    thanks scot-la!

  16. 16
    November 24th, 2009 07:00

    I knew I was already a genius, but now it’s official! I’ve actually never really had problems with scissors . . lucky me! But I was one of the only left-handed servers in PE when we did volleyball :-(

  17. 17
    November 24th, 2009 07:01

    ^Just had to comment: I got comment #16! That’s my awesome/favorite/possibly lucky number!

  18. 18
    November 24th, 2009 07:04

    I’m wondering if there was ever a really exciting or interesting game of Pong.

  19. 19
    November 24th, 2009 07:08

    Oooh! I will most definitely dive into lefty-world tomorrow. Should make my notes in class interesting.

    Anyways I signed on to celebrate my completion of LEVIATHAN today at about 4:00 !!! Yay. Took me long enough. Plus I’ve used “barking” about 7 times today :-D

    But I loved it and cannot wait for the sequel…hurry up :-P

    Right after I finished I went to the bookstore and actually bought Justine’s How to Ditch Your Fairy. :) I’ll cozy up with that through the Thanksgiving weekend.

    Speaking of which, I am SO thankful for your books Scott-la thanks for keeping me entertained and giving me an escape through your writing. I’ll be reading through your tips soon too :). So thank you and Happiest of Thanksgivings.

    Happy Thanksgiving to ALL the hard-core Scott fans whom I’ll forever refer to as my lovely WESTERLIES! Love you guys!

    <3 A Fellow Westerly!

  20. 20
    November 24th, 2009 10:18

    I think I will try this! Sounds like fun, too.

  21. 21
    November 24th, 2009 10:46

    Lefties rule all! Shout out to everyone out there….I’ve actually learned how to use scissors right-handed….but what I’m scared about are those AP desks. Does anyone else have those desks at school with a right-handed arm-rest thing? Cheap, right? But the AP desks are pretty much just the right-handed side of the desk….what am I going to do???? Oh well, I’ll just have to be creative. :)

    Scott-la: Do you ever decide whether your characters are left- or right-handed? I remember noting in Leviathan that in the pictures Alec swordfights with his right hand, but I think that Deryn writes with her left.

    Does it matter to you what hand your characters use the most? I know I always love it when a character is left-handed; like Jace in Mortal Instruments.

  22. 22
    November 24th, 2009 10:54

    Well it’s a good thing I’m a leftie. I have a feeling doing everything with my right might actually make a difference. Who knows? My left hand was in a cast for a month and I learned to use my right. I felt more clumsy than smart, I guess, but it was an interesting experience.

    Thanks for the brain food!

  23. 23
    November 25th, 2009 01:18

    i’ve always written w/ my lef thand, so when i got to kindergarten, my teachers just assumed i was a lefty. they gave me lefty scissors. i could NOT figure out how to mke them work! turns out, i’m naturally ambidextrous! go me! there aer something (like eating, writing, and sewing) that i always do w/ my left hand, and others (like using scissors, and a few other things) that i always do w/ my right hand. BUT i’ve noticed that it’s very easy for me to use either hand for whatever task i’m working on. :) happy evelyn!

  24. 24
    November 25th, 2009 03:44

    As I currently browse through the interwebs, I am using my left hand to operate the mouse! X) I hope this works!
    Great tip, Scott. ^_^

  25. 25
    November 25th, 2009 07:35


    can you guess yup thats right I’m a leftie woot woot!!

    I’ve gotten so used to doing things right handed that now i’ve noticed that for everything sport related I’m a righty and for everything else that i’m able to control i am a leftie. weird right??

    Ping to Kailey-wa

    My university has those chairs but they also supply a small amount of leftie chairs so grab them while you can lol. I usually have to rearrange the room so that i can get a lefty chair and sit in the spot that i like its a hassel but i do it every day :D

  26. 26
    November 25th, 2009 09:16

    Ping to Saira-La

    that is soooo weird!!!! same here, but the opposite (i am a righty, but in sports and that stuff, I’m a leftie) :)

  27. 27
    November 25th, 2009 09:18

    by the way… is this a wordpress site cuz I’m logged into wordpress, but I’m not showing up as crystalsing :?:

  28. 28
    November 26th, 2009 00:13


    I used this all today. Had a History test (no revision, just slight cramming overheard from my friends OTL :( ) and I GOT 2ND FROM TOP IN THE CLASS!!!

  29. 29
    November 26th, 2009 08:05

    Thats awsome. I used the eye thing today on a biol exam question that i was stuck on, Someone gave me some strange looks, what with my wierd eyes an all, but sorted out the question (i think) so thanks!! Donno if thats the placebo effect though, like, if my expectations helped with that or somthing. Thanks!!

  30. 30
    December 2nd, 2009 18:36

    As a leftie, I wasn’t allowed to use scissors until…idk when. And then they still wouldn’t let me because I sucked at it. So, being catholic, when i entered Catechism, they tried to switch me. :O So now I’m pretty ambidextrous. It annoys people that it doesn’t matter which hand I write with, it’s roughly equal…

  31. 31
    Sarah Ayelet
    December 3rd, 2009 06:03

    Hey, I don’t mind being a creative genius ;)

    What is kind of weird, though, is that my two handwritings are different, so I can’t legally sign with my left hand…
    In other words, I sometimes accidentally forge my own signature o.O

  32. 32
    Sarah Ayelet
    December 4th, 2009 12:11

    I thought I’d come back here and point out one very important mind-stimulating, horizontal-eye-moving, creative making activity:


    A very good practice for writers ;-)

  33. 33
    December 7th, 2009 19:34

    not for lefties :]
    although I’d read if it hurt me.

  34. 34
    December 23rd, 2009 01:35

    I know this it late but i just read the post.

    I really don’t understand why everyone always brings up left-handed scissors, I’m left handed and to me it doesn’t matter. I don’t see a difference in the way they would be bulit. Your thumb will always be facing up wont it?

  35. 35
    herbal ecstacy
    March 17th, 2010 19:31

    hey guys, just came here when i did a fast yahoo search. Neat blog you have here! Keep it up!

  36. 36
    March 23rd, 2010 06:40

    ha i’m a leftie!

  37. 37
    ugg boots discount
    August 11th, 2010 07:04

    I realize I was thinking of The Hunger Games.links of london friendship
    links of london charms Thanks, Bookworm 1000 and Kristina-la!

  38. 38
    July 12th, 2011 00:45

    Hey Scott, I am writing a book about this girl who is having trouble writing a book so i was wondering if i could put this in the book but kind of in my own words and she finds it on the internet…am i aloud to do that?

  39. 39
    Midshipman K
    April 9th, 2012 22:27

    I’m *already* a creative genius? How lucky for me. I wish I could THINK of something! Actually, I have. Lots and lots and lots of stupid ideas. Maybe my life would be easier if I was ambidextrous, not left-handed….I am so ruled by my left side. It’s the only side I ever injury, and my strongest side. I always choose left instead of right, yadda yadda. I picture Deryn sitting on the left side of Lilit in the cinema in Goliath, although everyone else seems to picture them the opposite way. *frowns* I’m just odd then, I suppose. The only bad thing I can think of to do with the word ‘left’ is: “Mordor, Gandalf? Is it left or right?” “Left.” –The Fellowship of the Ring Special Extended Edition (Because LotR is one of the four chambers of my heart; don’t worry–Leviathan is in there too)

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