Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The write side of the brain

Since I quit eating sweets, my brain needs another source of joy. So I learn. I enrolled to online courses, now I do two in parallel. I eat sweets occasionally, to be fair, but at most a few times a day. But it is learning that gives me the kick, I practice a small language every day, I finish my assignments for the essay writing course on time, I practice and practice. “No pain, no gain” says the workout mantra which emphasizes the less important part of the experience. Learning and practicing can be sheer joy, let me share my examples.

Public speaking. I have been a member of Toastmasters for two years. It is a international organization that has as many members worldwide as half of Amsterdam. Its goal is to help its members become confident speaking in the public; the fear of public speaking is presumed to be worse than the fear of death. I didn’t find it dreadful when I joined the club, I was comfortable to speak my mind in front of people, but they had difficulty to follow my thoughts that jumped from topic to topic. It was a gradual progress, I hardly noticed it, but I am more confident now. The club has a strict schedule, every evening is structured the same way, we clap a lot. First it felt as alien as stumbling upon a gathering of the Alcoholics Anonymous. Then I got used to it, even realized how much this warm atmosphere helped me: I could experiment with seemingly stupid ideas, I could make mistakes, and all I got was a round of applause and a nice piece of feedback what I could do differently next time.

Drawing. I am not a Pablo Picasso (in his early years), but I am above the stickman-only level. It is not my hobby, but I had periods in my life when I carried sketchbook with me and my then favorite pen; I sat on a bench and made a quick sketch of a fallen oakleaf or an old lady in a purple coat feeding her snowwhite poodle. Well, showing these drawings to my friends would have been embarrassing. Then I heard of an application, Paper by 53. I thought drawing applications are for illustrators, for those who can draw, like a racket is for those who can play tennis or at least intend to learn it and take it seriously. After ten minutes spent with Paper, I had to admit this was something different. I don’t know if you ever had this feeling of immersing in drawing for an hour, then you come back to this sobering world, look at what you have done, and say, meh. It is not fair that so much effort adds up to so little. When I looked at my sketches with Paper, I felt the opposite, they looked better than what I had been prepared to see.

Drawing again. When I first encountered the book Drawing on the right side of the brain, I was skeptical. I didn’t expect more than what similar books on the same shelf had to offer: deep knowledge on how to make my aura colorful or how to have a happy life in 3-4-5 easy steps with just five minutes every morning before my breakfast cereal. I tried the first exercise in the book. Then I looked at my drawing and it made my jaw drop. Impossible, I couldn’t draw this well. And this jaw-dropping moment repeated more times while doing the exercises. I haven’t become a Pablo Picasso (in any of his years), but I enjoy drawing now and I am usually satisfied with the result.

Where is a toastmasters club for writing? What is the “write side of the brain” method? I have been looking for it, and I still don’t know. I know there are tons of books on how to write (I have a shelf full of them). There are courses on all sorts of writing from academic to creative to script writing. Writers’ groups, National Novel Writing Month, and tons of tons of advice, “Just keep writing” being the number one of them. Oh boy. I want to have that jaw-dropping experience when I jump and yell, Impossible, I can’t write this well. I want others to have this experience too. Are you in? If so, let me know.