On Whole Braining Your Writing Adventure

Mar 22, 2021

By Christine Carron

I once delivered a speech on the benefits of growing up with a mentally ill father. A main benefit I highlighted was that it spurred a lifelong curiosity about balance, health, and healing. I was (and am) a learning maven, churning through any idea for how it might help me create more equilibrium, possibility, and joy in my life. I actively search out new tools and methods, but sometimes cool approaches fall into my lap. Those always feel particularly delightful to me. Winks from the universe: We've got you covered, girlfriend.

One of those land-in-my-lap tools was the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument, or HBDI. I was introduced to HBDI, also called the Whole Brain Model, back in 1999. The company where I was working brought in a consultant to lead an HBDI session. Immediately, both the company and I saw the value of the tool, and I got certified as a practitioner to have the expertise in house.

I’ve been teaching and utilizing whole brain thinking ever since. It’s one of my favorite frameworks. Here’s the core premise of whole brain thinking from the Herrmann website:

Everybody thinks differently, but few organizations are able to leverage cognitive diversity as a strategic advantage. The ways individuals think guide how they work. 

Let’s get that out of organizational mode into writer mode so it feels more applicable to you:

All writers think differently, but only some are able to leverage cognitive diversity as a creative advantage. The ways writers think guide how they write and how they engage on their writerly adventure.

If you are like me, you want as many advantages as possible on your writing adventure. So let’s dive in.

HBDI is based on both right mode and left modes of thinking, as well as cerebral and limbic. Those four modes together create the model’s four different thinking styles.

 The Whole Brain Model 

To get your whole brain juices flowing, let’s look at plotting and how each mode of thinking strengthens the effectiveness of a plot.

Whole Brain Thinking and Plotting

  • Blue/Upper Left Mode: Helps us build a plot that’s logical and realistic within the confines of a particular story world. If not, the plot is likely straying into deus ex machina territory, i.e., a plot twist that seems to come from nowhere to resolve the story’s central problem.
  • Green/Lower Left Mode: Helps us organize the plot, however loosely. A plot doesn’t have to be sequential (chronological) per se, but there needs to be enough stepping stones for the reader to follow it.
  • Red/Lower Right Mode: Helps us create plot points (especially the ending) that are satisfying to the reader by paying attention to how the twists impact the main character. Ideally, plot impacts the character in both an external way—the action of the story—and also in an internal way, the emotional journey that the character takes.
  • Yellow/Upper Right Mode: Helps us add elements of surprise to our plot. These are the twists and turns that bring delight to the plot, the story, the readers—and even to us as writers.

Now, you are likely already sensing that some modes of thinking (or plotting) may be easier to you than others. Awesome! That means you are already getting insight into your own thinking preferences. And that means you are off to a great start on crafting your own whole brain writing adventure.

This is a Possibility week on the blog. A perfect week to launch Whole Brain thinking into the Goodjelly repertoire. Over the coming weeks we will move through the rest of the Goodjelly cycle (Power, Process, Grace, and Patience) and explore different ways that Whole Brain Thinking can give you new insights, freedom, and agency on your writing adventure. Sweet!


The Goodjelly Prompt of the Week

  1. Do you have a sense of which modes of thinking you prefer more? Which you prefer less?
  2. Think about the whole brain model in context of other writerly endeavors such as developing a character, querying, critiquing, managing a critique group, attending a writing conference, etc. How might a whole brain approach improve your effectiveness in those activities?
  3. What might the benefits be to your writerly adventure if you could learn how to situationally stretch into less preferred modes of thinking?
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