Creative Tips for the Left-Brainer

Creative Tips for the Left-Brainer by Carl Vonderau

This guest post is by Carl Vonderau, who is sharing his Creative Tips for the Left-Brainer.

Creative Tips for the Left-Brainer

Do people call you analytical and you know it’s not a compliment? When I reveal that I had a career in banking, I often see several words flash in a person’s eyes: boring, unimaginative, stodgy. Then I tell them I wrote a thriller about a banker who is the son of a serial killer. Is that surprise or fear on their faces? Most of us can be both creative and analytical. I move back and forth from one style of thought to the other, but they both—thankfully—intrude on one another.

Here are a few issues and tips. Because I’m a left-brainer, I’ve numbered them and used bullet points.

1.    You need more time to let your creative juices rise to the surface.
   Actually, the opposite can be true. Leonard Bernstein said, “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” The trick is to get your internal editor out of the way by forcing your mind to hurry. Some people set up a timer and type like mad for a half hour or less. I write the first draft by hand, which makes me feel as if I’m trying to catch up to the story.

2. Should you solve a problem, find a problem for a solution, or look for a never-before-considered concept?
   Most of us believe we should begin with a problem and move toward the answer. But I know thriller writers who write the ending first then start from the beginning. Bank executives knew that their systems could perform most client operations without people. So what was the problem that solved? Working parents needed to bank after five o’clock.
   Sometimes creativity is just combining two or more ideas that haven’t been put together before. Apple Computer became the largest stock in the world by packaging existing technology into a unique computer and phone. Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things.”

Creative Tips for the Left-Brainer by Carl Vonderau
3. How do you get outside of that stodgy, linear self?
   Change your routine. Start the day by reversing the way you eat breakfast.
   Take an idea and remove an essential part. New possibilities will bubble up. Removing a recording mechanism created the Walkman. 
   Think of your product as part of a story in someone’s life. How does it pivot them from disappointment to victory? Then figure out why and who else could be in that story.
   Give your mind a break and wash the dishes. A mindless task provides a slight space in which the idea you’re working on can resonate.
    Stop typing and ask, What if? What would happen if you changed an assumption? How about changing a conclusion? Then what if…

4. When do you let the critics go after you?
    When nurturing an idea, avoid premature evaluation (Hmm). Don’t talk to anyone at first. Your idea will be an easy target because it’s not thought out. Worst of all, you might cede your revolutionary concept to someone else’s more stodgy one.
    Get your idea down in a paragraph. Discuss it with one open-minded, not critical person. Some scientists believe that the most powerful discussion arises in pairs. Think: Watson and Crick.
Build it out. Then whittle and pare it down. Some of your brilliant insights just don’t belong. Mark Twin is credited with saying, “If I had more time, I would have made it shorter.”
    Go to that critical, nitpicking group you’ve avoided. Prepare to be humble. This is where you learn the places where your genius has missed the barn. Try to thank them.
    Embrace your failures. Get used to starting over. Paul Taylor revolutionized dance. At one performance a reviewer said, “Three girls, one named Twyla Tharp, appeared at Albert Hall last evening and threatened to do the same tonight.” Ouch!  
Issue 6. How about the problems that just won’t cooperate?
    Don’t fight them. Toni Morrison says that if you surrender to the wind you can ride it.
    Take a sideways approach and ask how the failure of a product or idea tells you about its strengths.
    Sleep on it. Even daydreaming works. It did for Einstein!
    Put your groundbreaking idea away for a week (or a month). Then: OMG, the solution is so obvious.
    Laugh. Go hang out with colleagues. Watch a sitcom. Listen to a politician. Laughing opens the mind to other connections.
    Get help from someone. Maybe that totally uninformed person who just joined the company, the one who has no choice but to consider the basics of what you’re proposing. The problem just might be more fundamental than you realized.
    Keep grinding. If you have the feeling you’re close but just can’t quite grasp it, continue struggling. Maybe work on it in a different venue.
    Follow the advice of the Simpsons. “You’ve tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: Never try.” All right, you’re not like Homer, are you? Angela Lee Duckworth found something in all great achievers: grit. It allows you stay in a painful place while working hard to improve, again and again.

Issue 8. Executive Summary (We’re left-brainers so we have to have this.).
You’re not hopelessly uncreative, despite what your spouse tells you. In fact, you’re that rare combination of creative and analytical abilities.  

Creative Tips for the Left-Brainer by Carl Vonderau
Carl Vonderau grew up in Cleveland in a religious family that believed that God could heal all illness. He left that behind him when he went to college at Stanford and studied economics. Somehow, after dabbling in classical guitar, he ended up in banking. Carl lived and worked in Latin America, Canada, and North Africa, and conducted business in Spanish, French and Portuguese. He also secretly wrote crime novels. Now, a full-time author, he also helps non profit organizations. He and his wife reside in San Diego, where their two sons live close by. Check out more about him and his upcoming thriller, Murderabilia, at


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