The Lonely Writer’s Companion

by Lisa Lenard-Cook

March 2012

Right, Left, Right. Left. Right. "…I am here to tell you that you can’t be a right-brained writer."

“I’m so right-brained. I just can’t handle marketing.”

“I’m creative, you know? Right-brained.”

“I hate the business side of writing, but then, writers are right-brained.”

Stop. Right. There. All you self-styled right-brainers. Because I am here to tell you that you can’t be a right-brained writer.

“Wah!” you cry. “Why not?”

Because words reside in the left brain.

I know you’ve seen those tables, with logic and math and orderliness on the left, and intuition and artiness on the right. That’s what got you started on this misguided journey. But what’s missing from this dichotomy’s shorthand is the fact that creatives synthesize. That means left brain and right brain work together to create. If you’re only right-brained, you’ll never write a word.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this table of terms from Betty Edwards’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain:

Left Right
verbal nonverbal
analytic synthetic
symbolic concrete
abstract analogic
temporal nontemporal
rational nonrational
digital spatial
logical intuitive
linear holistic

"Now, which of these are required for writing? I’d answer all of them…" —Lenard-Cook

Now, which of these are required for writing? I’d answer all of them, if you’re going to do it right, but let’s go for just the basics here: verbal, synthetic (that is, capable of synthesis), abstract (able to see the whole from a part), analogic, rational, spatial, intuitive, and linear. That adds up to four from column L and four from column R.

Not convinced? Let’s look at which are required for marketing your work. I’d go with verbal, analytic, concrete, analogic, spatial, and holistic—two from column L and four from column R. So much for right-brainedness as an excuse for not marketing yourself.

If you were truly right-brained, not only would you not be able to write, you’d have little holding you to reality at all. The truth is, the ability to write well has as little to do with right- or left-brainedness as the ability to market oneself.

Now, just for fun, pick the words above that best describe you. Chances are, you’re treading the balance beam between right and left brains. And, if you’re not? Well, maybe you should try, just a little bit harder.

"Where are you on the left brain/right brain scale?"

Where are you on the left brain/right brain scale? Join the conversation at Twitter and Facebook.

Next month, we’ll look at extroversion and introversion—a dichotomy that does make a difference to your writing and marketing skills.

Dissonance, a Novel
by Lisa Lenard-Cook
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PEN-short-listed author Lisa Lenard-Cook’s most recent book is The Mind of Your Story: Discover What Drives Your Fiction (Writer’s Digest), which originated in her columns for Authorlink. With Lynn C. Miller, she’s co-founder of ABQ Writers Co-op (, a creative community for New Mexico writers, and co-editor of the literary magazine Bosque. She’s on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference and the Board of Narrative Art Center in Santa Fe. Website: