The Right Motivator
I was told by a teacher once, that the most important job a teacher has, is to motivate. And I take that to heart. The best thing for me, as an instructor, is to see participants get excited and feel motivated because they understand something new, or can do something they didn’t know they could.
An interesting phenomena in my drawing class, is how many people have bought the book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, by Betty Edwards, but have never made it through the first few chapters; or they’ve read the book but have never done any of the exercises. Class introductions sound like a session of A.A. for those who didn’t finish the book: “Hi, my name is John; I too bought the book, but I only read the first chapter”. People feel a sense of relief that they are not alone.
And I totally understand! Why is it that the most mundane house tasks will get done before any practice at art? Generally, even when we have the desire and the time to create something, we still take out the garbage before picking up a pencil.
So why are we avoiding the things that may make us grow and be happy? I blame the left-side of our brains. If you’ve read the beginning chapters of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards (I know most everyone has read the first chapter anyway), you will discover that our brain is divided into two hemispheres (left and right) and are each responsible for their own way of knowing. The left side, for example, understands things in a linear, rational and verbal way while the right side is holistic, non-rational and non-verbal. Think of the difference between rationally working out a problem vs. dreaming about it.
Particularly in our western culture, the left, language oriented side of our brains is dominant. When you sit down to do a task, even if it is a more suitable task for your right side, like drawing, the left side will try to take over. Since drawing is likely something it doesn’t want to do, it will step in with words such as; “why am I doing this?”, “I should probably do something that makes more sense” or “my dog could have drawn this better”. If we listen to this incessant brain chatter (and our left sides can really talk), we will suddenly feel really tired and lose motivation. The Betty Edwards book will go on the shelf.
The good news is, you can outsmart the left side of your brain, which is what we do in drawing exercises from the Edward’s book. What we learn is that if you do not to let the left side of your brain (also known as the “inner critic”) be the boss, then the right half has a chance to kick in. When that happens, what you’re doing becomes infinitely more enjoyable. Time flies as you’re no longer worried if you’re doing something right or wrong – you’re just doing it. The right side lives in the present moment. It is most likely that when you are really enjoying an activity; gardening for example, you are using the right side of your brain.
So, back to drawing. If we draw from the right side of our brains, chances are we’ll get addicted. Then people will say “when are you going to mow your lawn?” and you will say, “I don’t have time, I’m too busy drawing”. Strangely, once we really get into it, then we don’t need any new books or art supplies anymore….the stubbiest pencil will do.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have creatied a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift. Albert Einstein