James Knight, the singer-songwriter in the band, was discussing the new songs in the repertoire, and mentioned the new book by Jonah Lehrer: Imagine: How Creativity Works. Lehrer uses Bob’s song-writing breakthrough which culminated in Like A Rolling Stone as a case study, arguing that in the creative process the left hemisphere of the brain is working logically and literally, but it is the right hemisphere which produces those eureka moments of ‘intuition’ or ‘inspiration’ by exploring illogical and non-literal associations.
I find this intriguing – and not solely because of my fascination with Dylan and his work. Rather, because I have earned my living as an advertising ‘creative’ for forty or more years, and for 23 of those years, I have had a golf ball-sized hole in the right hemisphere of my brain; specifically, in the hypothalamus. Two operations by the late Professor Hitchcock saved my life, but the hole remains, together with significant numbness on my left side.
Reading a digest of Lehrer’s work, I begin to understand how I have been forced to change my way of working by the right hemisphere damage.
Whereas Bob and James, it seems, can rely on the right brain to make those sudden nuanced connections, I cannot – or at least not to the same extent. So, I realise now, I have tried to develop my denotative left brain in order to compensate for the failure of my connotative right brain.
Given that the most commonly used example of right brain activity is the use and understanding of metaphor, this should make life a tad difficult for a writer. And it does. But there are ways in which the literalness and attention to detail of the left brain can be forced to produce a result which is akin to that of the intuitive leap, or reads as if it may be intuitive.
This is what I have been doing for a couple of decades now. And this is why my writing will never rank with that of Bob or James or millions of others. (I realise that even my sole recorded song was a simple linear narrative in ABAB quatrains.)
But hey, at least I can still string a sentence together.
Today’s listening: The Velvets, Live at Max’s Kansas City. Probably a right brain connection with last night, The Swaps, Live at The Somerville.