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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Your Brain - The Keys To Setting Your Writing Goals

I'm about to share something deeply personal with you.

You Are 15% Left Brained, 85% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.
Are You Right or Left Brained?

15%?! Even I suspected more than a measly 15% - probably because I'm not thinking logically but rather intuitively. Okay, take the quiz and see what you are. There's a point to this exercise other than just taking a fun little Internet test (and then getting depressed because it's clear you'll never have a relationship with dogs).

I've been fascinated with the whole left brain/right brain thing since I was in my education classes. Most teachers are logical thinkers and very left brained. Because of this, school is heavily geared toward the left brained learner. Think about it - line procedures, bells, get the picture. As opposed to centers (my favorite), learning by hands on involvement - all this equals loud, and very right brained. It was important as teachers to be aware of these learning differences so we could structure our classrooms to meet the needs of both kinds of learners.

When you look at the goal setting information out there - guess who it all seems to be geared toward - the left brained people. Which just seems strange to me, because THEY'RE probably the ones who don't need it (as much). It's the people with the cluttered desk, who don't pay as much attention to detail and love to doodle who need some good goal setting help.

When I was teaching freshmen, I ran across some ideas by Dave Ellis from Becoming A Master Student (1997) that really changed my life. So here we go - goal setting that is helpful to both the left brained and right brained thinkers.

What Is A Goal?

LB - The dictionary defines a goal as "The purpose toward which an endeavor is directed - a target."

RB - Your personal slogan!

How Do I Determine My Goals?

LB - This should be something you truly WANT, not something you think you should be doing.

RB - You know what you want, but don't QUANTUM LEAP! Don't go after something that requires your input to increase to stellar proportions. Here's your slogan - Remember baby steps and building blocks (you might even have one lying around on that mess of a desk of yours).

How Do I Complete My Goal?

LB - Write them down. That's the most important step, BUT always write them in a positive way.

YES: I will complete my 200 pages of my new contemporary novel by March 20.
NO: I won't fail to meet my contract deadline.

RB - You have to write down your goals, too. In fact, getting your left and right brain working together makes YOU a more productive person. Left brain stuff might not come naturally to you, but they ARE skills you can learn. I'm almost positive if I'd taken this quiz when I was working 9 to 5, my left brain aptitude would have been a lot higher? (Am I deluding myself - the left brain guy I'm married to would probably say yes.)

Okay, you have to write them down, too, BUT you can do it on pretty paper with a gel pen. Don't be afraid of glitter.

Both - Look at your goals daily.

LB - Read your goals out loud.

RB - Picture your goals already completed!

How Do I Organize My Goals?

LB - Prioritize. Look at your goals, break them down into smaller goals, then rank them in importance.

RB - Break your goals down into smaller statements and write them down on different (pretty) sticky notes that you put on your refrigerator or notecards that you put on your bulletin board (or whatever works best). Arrange them in any configuration that looks good to you (triangle, circle, lines...whatever). However, the goals that HAVE to be done first should be marked and separated in some way.

Look For Problems

Okay, up until this point, it's all been positive. Now you need to look for the barriers that may block you from completing a goal.

Both - Brainstorm. Both left and right brained thinking people do well with brainstorming. Ask yourself these questions:

Do I have the skills to complete this goal?
Do I have the resources on hand?
What could prevent me from reaching this goal?

LB - Make a list. Create and write down an action plan to avoid and solve problems.

RB - You're going to make a list, too except it's a Not-To-Do list. For some reason coming up with a not-to-do list just makes me laugh. Maybe because it feels anti-detail oriented while being detail oriented. One of the problems with thinkers of the right side is that they tend to overcommit and pile up activities. Give yourself permission to DO LESS. Your goal is to write a book, it's not to volunteer to find speakers, or write another article for the newsletter. Chances are, you probably did that for your chapter last year. Here's an example of my Not-To-Do List:

1. Keep my e-mail program running (so I won't look at it every five minutes).
2. Answer my phone from 1pm to 3pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
3. Volunteer more. (I set aside January as my volunteer month with my various groups.)

One thing I've found is that when I volunteered less, new and different people stepped up to the plate. You don't have to do everything, and if you keep doing it - no one else will have the wonderful chance to be a leader.  For my local RWA chapter, I was president, Veep in charge of programs, newsletter editor, contest chair and treasurer.  I'm not doing any of those things now, and my local chapter didn't fall to the ground in a wreck.  I promise - things will go on if you focus more on your personal writing goals.

What's The Most Important Thing About Goal-Setting?

I'm glad you asked - it's giving yourself a deadline and evaluating after it's done. Often our deadlines are already in place, like Golden Heart deadlines or contracted dates for partials and completed stories. If a deadline is not in place, then you need to give yourself impose one.

LB - Imposing a deadline gives you a measuring stick to determine if you're on the right track.

RB - Imposing a deadline means you're getting tough on yourself and gets rid of any vague, abstract out-thereness, which can sometimes be really nice.

Why Is Evaluation Important?

Again, I'm glad you asked.

LB - This may seem like a waste of time, but reviewing helps to determine what went right in your goal-setting and makes you even more effective the next time.

RB - Reviewing after the task is done may not be the most fun part of goal-setting, but if you know what worked and what didn't and why - you save yourself a lot of time and stress. Time to do more fun things, and stress, because really, sometimes those left brainers don't seems as tense and strained as we do.    

Any last thoughts?

Both - Efficiency applies to things - not people.

LB - Create a plan that's flexible.

RB - Create a plan that allows you to be spontaneous.

I hope this was helpful - if you want - share your quiz results.

Look for Time Management for Left Brained/Right Brained later in the month.



At 11:15 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Jill, I took the quiz and I'm 60/40, which makes sense to me.

I'm really bad at writing things down; my goals are in my head, mostly. But I would like to be more organized about my writing this year.

A publishing contract with a deadline serves as a pretty effective goal, but even if you don't have a contract YET, you can set one with the Wet Noodle Posse! Finish a book by Golden Heart entry time! Because we are going to cover it all this year.

A very worthy goal would be to check the Wet Noodle Posse Blog Monday through Friday and be prepared to learn a lot!

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I'm 35% Left, 65% Right. Not surprising for me, especially if you could see my desk!

Loved the suggestions for writing down goals, Jill.

At 1:13 PM, Blogger PatriciaW said...

Now I get why I always seem to be at war with myself. I like structure but I hate routine and schedules. I like goal setting but I hate feeling boxed in. I'm 55/45, almost evenly split.

Should make for an interesting year.

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the quiz! I've long thought that I'm pretty evenly right/left-brained, and indeed it came out 55% RB to 45% LB. As for in the classroom, my teacher prep program was quite progressive, and we talked a lot about different learning types and how to address all of them. Many of the suggested teaching approaches were actually designed to really help right-brained students. So I do think there is a trend toward that.

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Charity Tahmaseb said...

Great information! I knew some, but not all, and since I ended up with a 50/50 split, I may have to try a few new things.

At 10:32 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Good grief! I had to read through twice, and came to the conclusion I simply second guess everything too much. It's the Libra in me, I guess.

Writing down my goals is calming to me, though.

Thanks for taking the time to post such detailed information!

At 11:07 PM, Blogger Jill Monroe said...

I'm still scared about how lopsided I am. Glad the suggestion of writing down goals is helpful. I never realized just how helpful it is to myself to write down daily goals - but what I REALLY like to do is cross them out when I'm done : )

Doglady, love how progressive your teacher prep was. I'm fascinated by learning styles.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

You and me, Charity! I came out 50/50 as well. I feel so...neutral.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I turned out 45L, 55R. But only because I'm so right brain dominant that I've had to do some serious self-training over the years to survive.

I've developed habits, (I call them "grooves"), so that I don't lose things and drive myself and others nuts. But don't throw off my groove, or all the balls in the air land on my head.

Also, I totally agree about the job thing. My current fish-out-of-water day job is in finance. It definitely gives me ballast for the other side of my head!

Thanks for the goals pep talk, will be tuning in this week! And where do cats fit in? :-)

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Jane: Cats are so special, they take up an entire lobe of our brains. It's why we cat lovers look into their little furry faces and whisper, "I lobe you."

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

LOL. "I lobe you, now get off my keyboard."

At 11:20 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

(snort) That too.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Terri Osburn said...

I'm late getting here but this quiz could really help me. I came up 35 left and 65 right which seems to fit. The odd thing is, my home desk is a mess and my work desk is perfectly organized. Never understand why that is.

I'm afraid I've fallen into that "do too much" thing. I work full time, take college classes part time, write, am a single mom and was just elected conference chair for my local chapter. I'm already taking bets to see how long it takes for my sanity to snap completely. *g*

But today I will write down my goals. And I'll post them - on pretty paper - on the wall behind my computer. That way, I will see them all the time and picture getting them done!

Thanks for the help.


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