Publisher: Meta Creative
A 15 week guide to unleashing your creative genius
"At Left Brain Turn Right shows you how to silence the noise of your left brain and ignite your creative side" Synopsis
Apparently you are no less gifted than Shakespeare, no less creative than Da Vinci. You just don't know it yet. So says award-winning writer, producer, director and actor, Anthony Meindl. According to Meindl, the most successful and creative people in the world don't possess anything different than you, 'They have no magic formula or special secret. They've simply prevented the left hemisphere of their brain - the "logical," analytical side - from sabotaging their life.'
As Artistic Director of Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop (AMAW) in Los Angeles, Meindl's life is constantly submerged in creativity – where the ‘right brain rules’. Meindl says he is, 'endlessly inspired by his students' fearless creativity.'
Meindl’s first feature screenplay, The Wonder Girls, was the Grand Prize Winning Feature Screenplay in the Slamdance Film Festival Screenplay Competition in 2007. The film is slated for production in 2012 in Berlin.
His other credits include the award-winning 35-mm short film, Ready? OK! and the feature film Birds of a Feather (with Olympia Dukakis, Bruce Vilanch, Trevor Donovan and Lindsay Hollister and is currently in making the festival rounds) both of which he wrote, directed, and produced.
I was intrigued to find out about the whole left brain/right brain theory.
1. What was your impetus for writing At left brain turn right?
I think it was mostly my desire to help artists specifically (and people in general) to get out of their heads and live a more liberated, joyful, alive life. I have found that in the years I've been working with artists of all types and developing these theories, the more these people (including myself) began having more fun, felt more hopeful, became more creative and really started attempting things they didn't think they could do previously. To that end, I realized it was time to write a book to reach more people and hopefully help them get out of their own way and tap into their innate creative potential.
2. How did you become interested in theories of left/brain right/brain functions?
As an artist myself, I have found that the biggest hurdles I have had to overcome in life were actually the obstacles in my own head. As I began to meditate and find practical ways to actually get out of the criticisms and judgments of the left brain, I found that all of us have moments where we are tapped into the creative power that the right brain gives birth too. We have 'a-ha' moments, we engage in some sort of physical activity and are in 'the zone,' we create a piece of art and are so engaged in the moment we transcend time and feel the exhilaration of timelessness. These actual states of being are our birthright, but we live in a culture that is so left-brain-driven we have lost the ability to access these states naturally. So, for me, as I began to have more experiences in them, I became interested in the science behind it.
3. An introduction for your book says it shows you how to ignore your left side and ignite your creativity. What about the converse: does it also show creative people how to employ the analytical side of their brain?
Well, the left brain is always going to be there, isn't it? It's the loud noise we hear droning away at us the very first thing when we wake up in the morning. And it's the last noise we hear rumbling in our heads when we go to sleep. I think creative people know how to employ the left side of their brain because that function is always in over-drive for all people. It's cultural. It's epidemic. And actually, I think that the perception that creative people are only in their creative right brains is false. I actually have found that creative people are often in their left brain more than we realize because they are constantly judging and being judged by the output of creative work they produce. They want to be liked. They want their work to be embraced. So they often have a battle between the brains in order to create and at the same time not listen to the judgments of the left brain that want to prevent them from creating.
I joke with the people with whom I work that you really only need a left brain for a few things: balancing a check book, making a grocery list, remembering names, doing your taxes. Creativity doesn't involve left brain mechanics.
4. Why do you think most of us have let the left, or analytical side of the brain rule our thinking?
I think because it's the side that constantly gets reinforced individually and socially. We have become conditioned to believe the things we say to ourselves. Not because these things are true but because we say them to ourselves over and over again. So a belief is really born out of a habituated thought that just gets re-booted. And the science behind it is that we have these neural pathways that simply get charged when we continuously think the same patterns of thought. New neural grooves can be created. But they require thinking new paradigms of thought. Just because you were told you were "ugly" as a child or "fat" or "stupid" doesn't make those statements true. You've just stored them in the receptor of your brain and they automatically get called upon when something gets triggered emotionally in your life that seems to confirm those untruths that you are "ugly" or "fat" or "stupid."
5. Are you really saying any one of us can become a creative genius like Shakespeare, or Da Vinci?
All of us already are creative geniuses. It's all contained within us. How our creative talents want to be expressed and manifested is uniquely different for each of us. But we all possess this genius. Some of us aren't aware of it. And still others choose life paths that don't encourage or nurture our latent creative talents because we do what others tell us instead. Our parents make us go to business school when we really want to create music. Someone else tells us to get this "important" job even though we want to go travel the world. We constantly do what others tell us and before we know it, we're unhappy and unfulfilled because we're living someone else's life path instead of our own. And it's sad because these people don't actually tap into their innate gifts waiting to be expressed because they've really been doing things they felt they had to do rather than the things they wanted (and needed) to do.
Sometimes when people begin to face this internal conflict between who they are and who they wish to be, it shows up as midlife crisis. Some become brave enough to make drastic changes in their life at this juncture to really live the life they had been too scared -- or didn't know how -- to live. Sometimes, other people ignore their own inner guidance and stay stuck in the same debilitating patterns their entire lives. I'm not saying it's easy because a lot of this is old patterning that has to be broken. But the rewards are great and really, life-changing.
Part of realizing our potential is getting aligned with what it is we're supposed to be doing with our lives. It's not just thinking about it in terms of a job. It's about self expression. Someone like Shakespeare or Da Vinci was more attuned to this creative life force within them so this creative genius found a way to be expressed. But we're all channels. The key is to get plugged into the right outlet and then get the hell out of the way!
6. The modern school system seems to place a higher value on analytical subjects such as maths and science over creative subjects, like art and music. Why do you think that is?
Partly because we're living in a society that indoctrinates us from a very early age that success (and therefore life) is all about competition. I mean, it's cut-throat to get kids into certain pre-schools nowadays! There are 14-page applications to fill out for your two-year-old. That's nuts. And very harmful to a young person's spirit and self-worth. Competition is becoming ingrained earlier and earlier. And it's about getting ahead at whatever means necessary and not honoring that everyone has different learning curves. Some people mature later. Some kids bloom as they get older. Everyone's process is different. Why are we trying to cookie-cutter human beings and fit square pegs into round corporate holes? There's a place for Square Pegs in our world!
I think also that math and science is quantifiable. People with those skills can create new technological software or find the cure for a terrible disease or develop new engineering breakthroughs. And this is an amazing contribution to our society. So they are valued in big business; whether it's corporations or the medical profession or drug companies. The Arts, however, is not quantifiable in the same way. But it's purpose in life is not any less significant. Art shows us how to be human. How to feel. How to love. How to survive loss and have hope. It's not quantifiable. But without it, we would have no culture. We would be machines. (And actually, if we allowed ourselves to be more connected to our own artistry, we'd require less drugs, less medication, less hospitalization, less technological stimulation.)
Math and science are necessary. We need people to excel in these areas to create. Expressing skills in these areas is also absolute creativity. Kids who show a propensity toward these disciplines should be encouraged to nurture and develop these gifts. This is not only their mode of self-expression but also their contribution to the world. Other kids show a desire at a young age to create. To draw. To perform. These kids shouldn't be told those are "recreational hobbies," and be steered to subjects that they neither understand or care about, or are made to feel stupid because they don't innately grasp them. They should be encouraged to develop those inherent skills that come most naturally to them.
I hated geometry. I sucked at it. I was forced to take all these geometry classes in school that not only I failed at, but also created a lot of anxiety and self-loathing because I thought I was the stupidest kid ever because I couldn't quite get it. The irony is that since the 10th grade, I personally have never had to call upon my (lack of) geometry skills ever again. So what was the point? I'm not saying children shouldn't receive a well-rounded education. I'm saying that the current model of educational punishment and reward or "failing" a child who simply doesn't understand or connect to a certain subject seems to be missing the mark. It's a little Draconian and Middle Ages learning. Steering children toward what they do excel at and love creates not only healthier and happier children, but more productive and fully-realized adults.
7. Asked why he never wrote fiction when his peers seemed to jump between writing fiction and non-fiction, Christopher Hitchens said he felt inept in creative writing. He'd given it a lot of thought and decided it was due to his lack of appreciation for music. His peers were musical. Do you think that being creative in one sphere opens your mind to other avenues of creativity?
Absolutely. I never knew I was a writer until very recently. I have always been an actor and singer and the creative work I was doing with artists opened me up to other areas of self expression I didn't know I had. I think that's the point of just creating. By just stepping through that creative door, other creative worlds are opened to you that you never knew existed. That doesn't mean you have to be proficient in all of them. I mean, I'm a lousy dancer! But it does, in some way, seem to connect more deeply to the creative discipline at which you most excel. You seem to get better at it because of all the creative outlets, insight and new information that present themselves to you.
8. What would you say is the most important thing we can do to encourage creativity in ourselves and others?
Just do it. It's like the NIKE ad. I think we look at the finished product of something (whether it be this book, or a movie, or a song that Adele is singing) and we think that those creative beings have something we don't. That's the illusion because we only see the finished product. The act of creativity isn't about the finished product. The act of creativity is an act of bravery and trust and surrender. Some of the most amazing creative moments come after many, many pages of drafts or failed song attempts or un-produced films. I think artists become disillusioned because not all creative roads lead to an end product that's sold on TV or makes millions of dollars so we think it's a failure and stop because we attach a monetary value to something that transcends commerce. Being creative is a state of being. You can be creative the way you bake a cake or say hello to someone or do your taxes. But that comes from staying present to the creative act itself and not getting caught up with "further down the road," or "what's it going to look like," or "how's it going to be perceived."
Just watch children. They create something and then moments later they destroy it and they're on to the next thing. They are in the moment, moment-to-moment. They don't get stuck on the end results. They don't try to figure it out ahead of time. They just build their Lego land. Or their doll house. They just commit to playing cops and robbers. They just do it. They just play. Fully. And when it's done, it's done.
9. In terms of worldview, what do you believe?
My worldview is one of hope. Of compassion. Of understanding that everyone is doing the best they can at any given time so it's hard to judge. (Athough I do! But I constantly try to keep coming back to acceptance.) The truth is that we really can't change anyone but ourselves. I have to just keep working on myself and hopefully, like a ripple effect, those positive changes will reach out to help other people. As cliche' as it might sound, Gandhi's maxim about being the change you wish to see in the world is really it. I can't really change the world. (Nor can anyone else).
The world has been spinning for millions of years and will continue to do it's thing long after I'm gone. But while I am here, I can do my best to show up in my life with a little more presence. A little more compassion. A little more generosity. A little more love. A little more fun. I may fail at it at times but with this mindset you really do begin to see a change in your own being and then obviously it's reflected in the world around you. So your environment changes. And this, then, can create a positive difference. If everyone could do this (which we can) can you imagine what we could become? Not just as people, but as a culture? Exciting and inspiring, I think.
10. Anothony's Favourite:
Book: Autobiography Of A Yogi and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. And I also love everything by Carrie Fisher (very funny, unique way of seeing the world). And all of Anne Lamott's work.
Film: I love "Aliens." Maybe because Sigourney Weaver was such a bad-ass.
Music: I like all kinds of music. No favorites, really. I think musicians/singers are our modern-day poets so they're all pretty incredible, I think. Especially the ones who write their own stuff.
Motto: Onwards and Upwards
Charity: I particularly like Women For Women International who I've been supporting for a number of years now. They provide the resources for women in developing/war-torn countries to become self-sufficient by starting their own micro-businesses.
Thanks so much for your insight into empowering our creative brain, Anthony. Although I'm a writer, I find the editing much easier than the creating, so I'm keen to find out more about unleashing my inner Shakespeare!
'No, thank you! This was SO much fun. You asked some amazing, thought-provoking questions.'
Thanks! There you have it: Within fifteen weeks you can be on your way to harnessing your right brain, to unleash your creative energies on the world.
Think. Write. Share.