are you a left-brained creative?

prime number poster by electricboogaloo
prime number poster by electricboogaloo

Science tells us that creative people are right-brained: intuitive, random, focused on the big picture, subjective, holistic. I’m sure this is true of many of you. But the more I delve into this diverse creative community, the more I meet people who create amazing works of art & craft who are very much logical, mathematical, objective, analytical creatures. In fact, they are left-brained.

Of course, brain science is inexact. But this simple dichotomy of thinking about thought has always fascinated me and I think there’s a lot to it.

For my part, I consider myself cranially ambidextrous. Don’t google that – I totally made it up. I like to think with both sides. What do I love about web design? I love fitting the tiny pieces together, manipulating them, discovering the logic behind their function. What do I love about blogging? I love the big picture, the creative writing, the juxtaposition of word & image on screen.

But I wanted to know more about creative people who favor their left-brain thinking skills. So I asked! As always, Twitter & Facebook did not disappoint. Below are some of your comments. Have something else to say? Please leave it in the comments on this post! I think it will be a subject I’ll be exploring in depth over time.

I find it to be an internal struggle. I need a plan/schedule/order on creating new products, however creativity doesn’t…or shouldn’t be so rigid. Still trying to strike a balance with free flowing and a regimen. Sort of like finding the gray in a black and white mind.
Bridgett Edwards

I’m realistic about how much I can do in the space I have/limit materials/limit techniques… but I also see/solve real problems, don’t fall in love with ideas that will lose money
Sam Hirst

Yes, that is definitely me. I constantly struggle internally with the question, “am I actually a creative? or do I just appreciate creativity and want really badly to be creative?” I’ve taken the left vs. right tests before and I always end up smack dab in the middle … except slightly more left. Many times I’ve given up on being artistic, finally convinced myself I’m just not creative enough (like the people who have such awesome creative blogs). But then I can’t help myself and start a new project. Surely there has to be a creative outlet for us over-analyzers? I constantly feel “left out” of the creative community. I feel like all my creativity is just imitating others and what they have already done. Sometimes I think I just haven’t found the right medium yet. Maybe something more mathematical, like music? Or more of an arranging art than an originating art? (i.e. collaging vs. painting) But I have to say, just seeing you post this question makes me happy, since I now know I’m not the only one with this problem.
— Casey Fisher

Honestly, I feel like my analytical side and creative side are at odds with each other a LOT! On the other hand, I think that when they are in harmony, it opens up doors that people who are only left-brained or only right-brained don’t even have. I don’t ever feel left out of the creative community, but I do sometimes feel like I’m a little weird!
Stephanie Sharp

I keep getting told that I am much more logical than creative. I’m not sure if it’s true but I do like things to follow a logical path! If I have an idea for a design, I need to sketch it out then work out exactly how I’m going to make it and from what instead of a more trial-and-error approach. I feel more comfortable if I know the steps I need to follow and almost write myself a pattern before I’ve started!
— Ellie Thouret

Being a creative person with left brain mentality for me equates into highly focused work ethic, anal about details, fastidious for perfection, highly organized assembly line style work table, while working in a scattered hap-hazard, I know I left here somewhere studio.
Elizabeth Callanta

So – are you a left-brained creative?

21 thoughts on “are you a left-brained creative?

  1. In my part time job I work as a market researcher – I work a lot with numbers, excel and statistics. And I just need to work with my other part of brain as well…..but vica versa as well: I need something besides jewelry design.

    I think that working with the “other” part of your brain (whichever it is) inspires the other one for work as well. I think it is like writting with your “other” hand: for example if you are right handed and you practice to write with left hand, your right hand becomes more skilled as well.

    1. judit – so true. i think exercising either half of your brain is good for the other side, too. it’s when we stop exercising either that we really get in trouble!

  2. that’s definitely me. i thrive with lists, i keep myself organized (though maybe a little messy) in my own personal-logic way, and i like to figure things out in my head before diving right in to a new project.
    sometimes (many times) this kind of thinking drives me up the wall, though! i can often bind myself into a corner by over-analyzing things too much instead of just DOING. i have to reming myself a lot to just DO something, instead of trying to figure out the whys/what ifs/ and hows.
    the truth is that i always figure those things out along the way, but i still can’t stop myself from wanting to always know what to expect ahead of time.

    all that being said, i am a very creative person! i’ve always been a DIY-er, trying to figure out how to make things myself, and how to bring my ideas into reality. i’m always happiest when i have a few projects in the works, and i really need a creative way to express myself and my introverted ways.

    i think my left-and-right brains work well together :)

  3. Casey, I can totally relate to how you feel. I deal with that all the time and over analyze everything! Tara can attest to that when we worked together on my blog. But don’t let it hinder you for taking the plunge to the creative side. It’s scary, I ain’t gonna lie but it’s so rewarding knowing you created something!

    Everyone has to start somewhere so if you feel you are imitating others, that’s ok, work on your technique and process and then work on tweaking it to make it your own.

    Kudos to Tara for letting us think with both sides of the brain today. :-)

  4. Besides what I already wrote on FB about my personal experience, I think “creative” is a very misused word today – most of the people connect it’s meaning only to arts and crafts and such. The truth is, to achieve any progress or result in any science (or other) field you must be creative too. Math is maybe (really, only maybe, because all sciences are) the ultimate creative science – to make any progress in math you MUST be very creative, apart from being very analytical etc. Finding new answers to old questions, being able to ask new questions, looking at things from a new point of view – all that is creativity.
    People that use more the right side of the brain seem to make “invisible jumps” toward a solution – the “logic” of achieving a solution is somewhat “hidden” to our eyes and mind only because it’s not the common logic we know. But there is always an internal way to the solution, sometimes only on a subconscious level. Sometimes it’s only seeing a problem from a different angle or in more dimensions that leads toward an answer that is right and at the same time very difficult to explain.
    In the end, being creative means that both sides of your brain functions in harmony. It’s the dynamic of that harmony that is difficult to explain because it’s not always linear (luckily!)

    I went to science high-school – most of my classmates were in music school too, and many people used to write (and just a few drew) – this will be unexplainable if we think of creativity only in terms of right-sided brains and producing arts.

  5. I’m left brained. I’m almost an Engineer, I decide things with numbers, I make charts with pros and cons, I’m totally analytic.
    I’m right brained. When I craft, when I dream, when I enjoy life and be impulsive.
    Like you, I’m ambidextrous. And proud of it.

  6. I spent five years working as an e-commerce site developer where the majority of my time was spent developing database applications. I’m a statistics junkie. I also happen to love geometry. But music is my first love. I’ve always enjoyed the jobs where creativity was required, yet I still indulged in painting and drawing in my spare time.

    I do think that left brains and right brains are both problem solvers. Left brains use linear logic while right brains take an abstract approach.

    I knew someone in a class once who was a phenomenal mathematician and possessed astounding creativity. What I remember most were his drawings – lines upon lines that would blossom into an abstract, complex subject matter. He was one of those people whose brain halves could work in tandem on creative projects.

    Am I left-brained creative? I think I’m more 65/35. I can tap my left brain when I need it, but I much prefer my right brain.

  7. There’s a shouting match going on inside my head at all times. I’m so glad the world can’t hear it.

    My right-brain is a sponge that’s always thirsty. My left-brain is a warden with a whip. I’ve put my frontal lobe in charge of who gets to enjoy time out of the box.

    I’m definitely at my happiest and most fulfilled when my right brain is in charge, but the adult in me knows that sometimes there’s something to be said for making a list and checking it twice.

  8. I believe ALL humans are inherently creative. It’s part of being human. Some just haven’t discovered their personal outlet for it and others have convinced themselves they’re not. Creativity takes on many forms: cooking a beautiful meal, arranging flowers, growing things, writing, humor and comedy, hanging pictures on a wall or arranging furniture, dressing themselves, baking, combining colors, acting, dancing, mathematics, research, organizing, filmmaking … I could go on and on.

    Creativity takes practice.

    Daria mentioned that “creative” is a misused term and I agree completely.

  9. I have to say most designers are equal parts. We are problem-solvers, and need to use both parts of our brain to find the best creative solution for our projects. Tara, I’m sure you already know this! :)

    One good example of creativity that is both left and right, is information graphics. The exposure of this type of designed information has increased and information has never looked better. Don’t believe me? View the Feltron Annual report, or the infographics used on GOOD to illustrate their points. It visually explains data that is more easily understood by the general public and not just those who are considered right-brained. They call it “Graphical explorations of the data that surrounds us.”

    I think as the planet evolves we are using both parts to suit our needs. And I completely agree with Daria, craft, arts, and design are not the only “creative”
    industries.

    But on a side note, I prefer the work that is more right-brained compared to the left. I don’t love math, but I must use it on a daily business when creating websites and even print materials. It’s a given. But I’m my happiest when I’m immersed in right-brain activities where the imagination can explore freely.

  10. yes…yes…yes That’s me a left-brain creative! I am very methodical and precise. As hard as I try, when I create I can’t have things out of balance, be it shapes or color. I have been analyzing myself regarding this for a very long time. I really thought I was weird and when someone would say…”oh you are creative, you must be right brained.” I’d think, “no I don’t think so.” I can be completely happy analyzing facts, researching things, putting things in their proper places, but I also love to make beautiful things. Thanks for this post, I dont’ feel so much like an odd duck!

  11. Yep! I’m an artist and writer who studied science, nearly majored in math or chemistry, worked in healthcare, analyze things to death, and go gaga over numbers and minutae. :) I’m equally comfortable in either half of my brain – but will always be science/analyst/minutae gal first. :)

  12. I double majored in art and communications in college so I am a bit of both. I was always a little more artsy than the other comm majors and a little too organized and structured for the art folks. I thrive on lists, organization, problem solving and analysis but I’m also a highly creative and visual person. The thing I love about my art is that it’s one area of my life that I’ve taught myself to just relax and let it happen without over-planning and over-analysis.

    1. hi angela! i can totally relate to you feeling between camps. that’s the story of my life. i never think quite enough like those around me to gain traction in one specific subject area. i think that’s why i like the big picture so much more – i’ll just think PAST people 😉

  13. Long ago, when I took the ACT’s, they included an interest survey that said I would be best suited as an accountant & I remember thinking that the last thing on earth I would want to be is an accountant. I also remember that I included many answers that indicated that I liked analysis, science & numbers, so I guess I probably do fit into the “left brained’ creative category. I think, as several others do, that creativity comes in many forms, even science & math, at certain levels, can be creative (not sure about accounting though, I don’t think it’s wise to be too creative with the books). Thanks for another great question!

    1. right on, shelley. “accountant” has probably been suggested to many a very left-brained creative person. and i think there’s a lot of unhappy accountants out there…

  14. My definition of design is exactly the same as Diane’s! And the example she explained is great. I really don’t like to push it into the art area, because that’s what design is not.

  15. One day, we may find that this whole left-brain, right-brain thing doesn’t really exist, and really, it just turns out that some people are willing to learn a little arithmetic, and others are not.

    I may be grossly over-simplifying here, as I have a grad degree in engineering… but I loathe arithmetic myself and I’m not very good at it.

    But it is one of these subjects where the opportunity to poke with a sharp stick is almost irresistible.

    I’m going to claim “cranial ambidexterity” myself.

    1. hi dave! i think you’re spot on. i think they’re probably labels that science has created for something it doesn’t quite understand. being a person with a background in the academic study of religion, i can’t resist a good label either!

  16. Thanks for this great conversation! As someone who double majored in math in music undergrad, you can imagine I’ve struggled through this more than once. I don’t compose music, though, so it was never as creative a pursuit as crafting is for me. One of the interesting things to me is that even with being a left-brained, “math” person, there’s a lot of room for difference. My area of specialization is operations research, which has a lot to do with solving large scale problems, thinking big. I’m not great with the specific details of something like accounting, or arithmetic. There are abstract concepts in modern algebra that I could never really grasp – I want to tackle real world problems. So when I make quilts, sometimes I feel like I should be better at measuring and following patterns, but I get to have more problem-solving fun by making things up as I go along. Whether right or left brained, our thinking styles can definitely influence which ways we express our creativity.

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