How to Draw Creativity from your Right Brain Terrain With Morning Pages

The School Master Vs Your Creativity

English: my knuckles

— based on the idea espoused by Right Brain Terrain, which is the part of our brain that is absolutely non–linear, connecting in associative ways rather than logical.

The cynic disappears, as does the critic and the school master with his wicked switch or in more modern times, his ruler, that very one that he will swing wildly through the air to crack down across your knuckles in an ouch–inducing smack to draw your attention to some detail he has just explained to the class, the one that you missed because you were texting or yanking somebody’s hair or streaming the latest episode of Bones on your smartphone behind a raised desktop.

The school master has more eyes positioned in more places on his head than your mother. And oh, it hurts, the knuckles sting, but the red cheeks and humiliation sting more. That boy with the Paul–Newman eyes is tapping the next boy ahead of him in the next row of desks. They whisper together and you know — you just KNOW — they’re talking about you. You sit up, straighten your sweater and promise to pay closer attention.

You cannot remember which class it is. Arithmetic? Social studies? Grammar? Oh yes, it’s grammar.

An idea suddenly takes hold of your brain, the idea of abandoning grammar in favour of creativity.

But the school master has snuck up behind you, glanced over your shoulder and stared down with eyebrows raised and mouth forming a perfect circle as he discovers your terrible secret life, the one where you dared to allow thoughts to flow undisciplined and un-punctuated onto the page (or, in the case of a more modern classroom, the screen). Either way, the result is the same, the smack, the stinging knuckles, the reddening cheeks, the whispering boys and you are—


Out of your right brain terrain and desperately searching in your ‘Strunk & White’ for the appropriate page so you can get that comma placed correctly. Next you reach for your dictionary to double-check the spelling — did you use the word appropriately in that sentence you just dotted? Is he discovering more secrets or sneaking up again?

(your knuckle throbs sympathetically)

So goes the struggle between parts and places in the brain, the ones that test the water and the ones that fling themselves joyfully off the cliff, confident the water below is welcoming and warm and lusciously full of ideas unfettered by school masters and critics and cynicism.

This is the struggle that famously trails you out of bed, follows you into the bathroom while you brush your teeth and winkle into the toilet, downstairs to the kitchen to start the coffee and finally nestles beside you, its bum, wide and flabby as your own as you settle in for that writerly session you were so-looking-forward-to until you got here.

That’s the principle behind morning pages; tapping into your right brain terrain before you are distracted by any of the other stuff, even the winkles and tooth-brushing. You do not so much as high five good mornings to your lover or children or the dog.

You write.

— You write —

— drawing deep within the reaches of your right brain terrain.

— scrawling creativity across the pages of your journal, your morning pages.


(I love the Smithsonian article — it’s the kind that takes a bite out of the School Master, ha.)


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