Friday, May 25, 2012

Duck, Duck, Goose: Left Brain vs. Right Take 2

"Here is the key to natural writing: the melodies must come first." 
                                                                   --Gabriele Lusser Rico, Writing the Natural Way

They played Duck, Duck, Goose, the little ones, at Angelica's 4th birthday party the other day. Remember this game? The designated child runs around the circle of other children who are seated on the ground. "Duck,, duck..." she says as she taps each child on the head in order around the group. "Duck, duck... GOOSE!" On cue, the one tapped at that point jumps up (or is supposed to!) and chases the first, trying to catch her before she can reach her original spot and sit down fast. If child #2 fails to tag child #1, then child #2 is now it. And another cycle of "Duck,, duck...GOOSE" begins again.

The day was beautiful and sunny. The guests so much fun. And the activities continued through the afternoon--with a pinata, crafts, birthday cake (of course) and the opening of gifts. All exciting stuff  for kids and adults alike (until, that is, overstimulation kicks in and everyone crashes).

And yet, it is the Duck, Duck, Goose game that has stayed with me. I think maybe because I'm still on this left brain/right brain kick that I explored in my last post (here) and can't quite let go of yet. What am I seeing? I'm seeing:

Duck (tap), Duck (tap), Duck (tap)...Logical. Analytical. Objective.
GOOSE!...Intuitive. Thoughtful. Subjective.
Duck (tap), Duck (tap), Duck (tap)...Linear. Sequential. Rational.
GOOSE!...Creative. Random. Patterns.
Duck (tap), Duck (tap), Duck (tap)...Clear-cut. Piece-by-piece. Editor.
GOOSE!...Insights. Originality. Discovery.

Mary Lou Carney, author and senior editor of Guideposts magazine once described the difference this way: "Be aware you have sequential thinking and you have random thinking. Sequential thinking reminds you to buy stamps. It lets you put your files in order. Your random thinking is what lets you do divergent thinking--lets you think of wild,crazy things." (Hmmm, children's games, anyone?) "And," she contends, "It's a fine line between having the sequential keep you on track professionally, but indulging in the random. I'm telling you that it's the random that will set you apart."

Gabriele Lusser Rico, in the book, Writing the Natural Way, Using Right-Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers, describes the two aspects of creative thought this way: "I have adopted the terms Sign mind and Design mind," she writes, "because they characterize one of the most fundamental distinctions between the working of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Research has shown that the left hemisphere, or Sign mind, is largely occupied with the rational, logical representations of reality and with parts and logical sequences. It has the capacity of ordering thought into communicable syntactic form--the way words are put together to form sentences. It acts as critic, censor, and error corrector.

"By contrast, the right hemisphere, or Design mind, thinks in complex images; it patterns whatever it encounters, including language, which, instead of clearcut signs, become designs...Moreover, the thought pattern characteristic of the right brain lends itself to the formation of original ideas, insights, discoveries. We might describe it as the kind of thought prevalent in early childhood, when everything is new and everything has meaning." (Ah, children again!)

Rico adds: "I might say that your Design mind attends to the melody of life, whereas your Sign mind attends to the notes that compose the melodies." Thus her key to natural writing: "The melodies must come first."

There we go. In order for our writing to sing, we need to activate the right side of our brains. So, though the duck has it's work to do, we also need to let the goose free to do her work, too.

Here's to the goose in all of us :-)


  1. I love your duck, duck, goose analogy. It's perfect!

    I also think that when I'm writing, the single thing that makes it so worthwhile IS those little surprises, those insights about our characters or stories that our muse/right brain gifts us with from time-to-time. I am amazed that I even thought of it.

  2. Oh, this is so sweet! I love the analogy, and the idea that you must balance logic with spontaneous acts and creativity :)

  3. Thanks, Cathy :-) And you're so right--those little surprises (gifts) are what make writing fun, aren't they? And thanks for adding to my description list. Right brain = muse. Love it!

    Jess, you've added to the list, too, with logic vs. "spontaneous'. A word I overlooked, but right on. (Ha--"right on." No pun intended!) Thanks for your comment.

    And Suzan! Countdown has begun. We will see you soon!!

  4. And to think all of that is so natural for a child. When do we start taking the joy out of learning, that is playing for them?
    Love the picture. The analogy is fun, too. I guess both animals are necessary for the serious writer!