Cultivating a Left-Eye Point of View

Pause for a moment, and focus on an object–a telephone poll, a basketball hoop, a magnet on the refrigerator, the flickering flame of a candle.  It can be anything.  Look at it closely, line it up with your vision.  And point at it with your index finger.

telephone poll

 

candle

 

Now–close your left eye, while continuing to point at the object, looking at it only through your right eye.  If you are like approximately two-thirds of the population, your finger will still be pointed directly at the intended object.

Okay.  Let’s switch eyes.  Close your right eye, and open your left.  More than likely, your finger will now be pointing several inches to the right, no longer aimed at the object.  Nearly 70 percent of people are right-eye dominant–when viewing the world, their right eye is in the driver’s seat, directing the line of sight and what they focus on.  It is, in other words, a matter of perspective.

Perspective, sometimes, can become stodgy, routine, set in its ways.  Take Marc Kuslanski.  Of all the characters in The Eye-Dancers, he is the least willing to consider the universe in a new and different way.  For Marc, science and logic are the backbone of all progress, the methods for solving every problem, the vehicle by which we should view the world and consider its possibilities.  For a large portion of the novel, he is completely closed to any considerations of the supernatural, miracles, ghosts–anything that lies outside the purview of natural laws and science.  Any talk of a mysterious “ghost girl” he dismisses–he is the only one of the four main characters in the novel not to dream of her.  No matter how adamantly the others protest and claim the girl is real, Marc won’t hear of it.

His is a fixed, ironclad stance, one that he must somehow overcome before novel’s end.  Can he bend?  Can he open his mind, and look at the world through a different lens, from a different perspective?  His very survival will ultimately depend on it.

I find it’s much the same in writing–especially writing a long work such as a novel.  Before I begin, I have a direction in mind, a path I’d like to follow.  I don’t draft chapter-by-chapter outlines, but I have a fairly clear idea what I want to accomplish in a particular chapter before I sit down to write it.  At the same time, however, I always remind myself not to get too locked in, not to be so tunnel-visioned as to miss the hints and urgings of what the characters on the page are doing.

It is a remarkable and mysterious phenomenon the way characters–your own creations!–often talk to you, and tell you what to write.  In The Eye-Dancers, I never planned for Marc Kuslanski and Mitchell Brant to become friends.  When the book opens, they know each other as classmates, nothing more.  They share some of the same classes, pass each other in the halls–that’s the extent of their relationship.  Of course, I knew the events in the novel would force them to interact more.  They, along with Joe Marma and Ryan Swinton, are transported to the variant town of Colbyville and must find a way back home, after all.  They need to get past their differences and work together.  But I didn’t intend for Mitchell and Marc to have such a strong rapport.  The more they interacted, the more I realized–these two are becoming friends.  I had to listen to them.  I had to shift my perspective.  The characters demanded it.  If I had stuck rigidly to my initial plan–my right-eye-dominant point of view, if you will–a major development in The Eye-Dancers would have been lost.

It is the same with any creative endeavor.  We need to stay amenable to the unexpected, open to the accidental discovery.  Alexander Fleming did not clean up his workstation one day back in 1928.  When he later returned, he noticed that a fungus had grown on some of his cultures.  He also noticed that bacteria didn’t seem to thrive near these cultures.  From this mishap, penicillin was discovered.  But if Fleming had not been observant, if he’d been unwilling to take note of a vital clue provided in the aftermath of his own sloppiness, he may have missed the chance at medical history.

penicillin

 

Sometimes we need to actively choose to alter our perspective.  I experience this on a regular basis.  At the moment, in the uplands of central Vermont, where I live, the hills are still a patchwork of faded green and white.  The battered dirt roads are flanked on either side with mud-streaked March snow.

vtmud

And I find myself frustrated.  Will spring never arrive?  But then I pause, take a breath.  Of course it will.  In the meantime, there is still much beauty to be found in the bare simplicity of the landscape, the tang of the morning air, the song of a red-winged blackbird newly arrived from its winter migration.

vermontspring

 

redwing

 

Switching lenses, from my right eye to my left, I feel lucky to live in the Green Mountain State, even in March.  Looking at the hills and rolling meadows, the slumbering farm fields and the sap buckets hanging from bare maple trees, I wish I’d brought my camera along.

maple

 

Suddenly, as if by magic, it feels like I’ve stepped into a postcard.

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

47 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Parlor of Horror
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 17:20:00

    When I close my left eye, my finger is off to the left, when I close the right, my finger is off to the right. With both eyes open I see two fingers with the object dead center of them. What does that mean?

    Reply

  2. krisdw76
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 17:53:33

    I really enjoyed reading this! Good post

    Reply

  3. helenvalentina
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 19:03:08

    That’s a great piece on perspective and how it relates to the creative process – it is very true that if we shut ourselves off while writing we will lose half of the magic and mystery of the creative process – really well articulated here, real food for thought. 🙂

    Reply

  4. FreeRangeCow
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 20:11:47

    I am right-eye dominant! And a healthy reminder to keep my mind open! ;oD

    Reply

  5. seeker
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 20:24:06

    That’s a good experiment, now I can’t wait to try experiment on the kids. Thanks for opening our minds.

    Reply

  6. cariwiese
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 23:28:36

    Did it twice and it was different eyes each time! I’m so confused! But it was fun, and now I have something else to do outside to make the neighbors think I’m batty! Thank you for visiting my blog!

    Reply

  7. indytony
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 00:48:15

    I appreciate your remarks about letting the characters speak for themselves. I was at a workshop Saturday where this was a topic of discussion. Some writers insist the characters must bend to their wills. My concept of faithful writing is quite different. At the end of my last story, my characters behaved in a way I would much rather them not to have, but it was necessary to bring the story to a close.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 27, 2013 @ 11:38:42

      Great comments. And yes, I think a lot of writers try to “control” their characters and story–and I think this will always result in a more artificial story–reigning in your characters is never a good idea.

      Reply

  8. Sam Han
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 02:15:07

    “Sometimes we need to actively choose to alter our perspective.” So true 😀

    Reply

  9. 2embracethelight
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 03:04:26

    I enjoyed this Mike. And the experiment? I see what you are talking about. And living in the great cold state of Minnesota, I understand what you are talking about with the dark remains of March snow.
    Your creative mind reminds me of what Carl Jung said. ” Consciousness succumbs all too easily to unconscious influence and these are often truer and wiser than our conscious thnking.”
    I enjoyed what I have read. I will be posting my editor’s story lines on my blog. Actually he will post them on there for me. He is also a published author. I am surrounded by published authors and it makes me antsy to write more. I am glad for the inspiration.
    Yisraela

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 27, 2013 @ 11:41:41

      Thank you, Yisraela! And I like the concept of the consciousness succumbing to the unconscious or subconscious. I often get ideas through dreams, and this is a perfect example of the subconscious working and inspiring–too often, our consciousness stymies creativity!

      Reply

  10. worldsbeforethedoor
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 10:36:47

    I love the whispers of my characters. Even the ones who tell me it’s time for them to die. Thank you for this reminder. I have family roots in Vermont and it is always beautiful….but my heart and home is in Texas. I love it the most. 🙂 And this time of year life is in full swing!
    Thanks again!

    Reply

  11. kelihasablog
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 12:52:31

    Uh oh, I think I’m in big trouble… LOL Excellent and delightful post Michael 😀

    Reply

  12. ericaatje
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 13:03:58

    There should be more people looking like you describe… I loved reading this post!!! 😉

    Reply

  13. ericaatje
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 13:55:28

    Good news, we are giving you the “BEST MOMENT AWARD“. Congratulations and enjoy the rest of the day! I really love the read…

    Reply

  14. greenlightlady
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 19:26:19

    I really enjoyed your “Green Mountain State” pictures and the reminder to be flexible. The eye experiment was fun too!

    Blessings ~ Wendy

    Reply

  15. Lyn
    Mar 28, 2013 @ 05:00:07

    Several inches off to the right with right eye closed? LOL make that a good two feet! My finger ended up pointing out the window. And it obviously makes no difference if you’re a left or right handed person (I’m a lefty).

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 28, 2013 @ 13:55:21

      That’s true.:) Eye dominance (left or right) is not related to whether you’re right-handed or left-handed. The two are completely separate functions. And two feet to the right?:) Wow!

      Reply

  16. Charron's Chatter
    Mar 28, 2013 @ 15:49:50

    a truly “eye dancing” post!! Love how this pairs moniker and missive.

    Reply

  17. Joanna
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 11:59:12

    It’s fantastic the way you describe how your characters develop, in a way which is almost contrary from your original intention. Fiction and the ability to create! I envy you! Awesome.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 29, 2013 @ 13:36:19

      Thanks, Joanna! And yes, it’s really quite an experience when your characters let you know something about them, as opposed to the other way around! In many ways, they really do live and breathe, and take on a dimension above and beyond the page . . .

      Reply

  18. cookingwithsapana
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 07:05:56

    Hi , I have nominated you for Versatile Blogger Award.Check it out here
    http://cookingwithsapana.wordpress.com/737-2/
    Congratulations!

    Reply

  19. urbantraveltales
    Apr 06, 2013 @ 19:15:38

    …and spring will come! I am in a similar lane of experience like you, and I find refreshing reading your resourceful connection between versatility of perspective and letting your characters lead you. Thanks for your visits to my blog!

    Reply

  20. Angela Grant
    Apr 18, 2013 @ 09:56:49

    It is getting somewhat warm with the sun showing up frequently but where are those beautiful tulips.?

    Reply

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