The Trouble with My Two Brains

Yesterday morning I left the house to go teach piano. Without my phone or wallet. I also left behind my water bottle and any snacks, despite the fact that it was a hot day and I was going to be gone for over four hours. I did, however, remember a pad of music notation paper, a pencil, and an eraser. And, because of how naturally organized I am (sarcasm), there was a random VISA gift card in the car. I was very grateful that my husband filled the gas tank the previous day.

Why does this happen?

Well, in short, it’s because I’ve been doing a lot of composition work this week.

Composition activates a completely different part of my brain than less creative work. And when I’m spending a good chunk of my time in “composition mode” I become totally aloof and absent-minded. The details of normal life escape me. I might forget to plan ahead for meals. I will lose track of items. Some days, I forget to brush my hair. I live in an abstract world in my head.

But when I am focused on very concrete tasks or trying to stay organized, my creativity suffers.

Every time.

It’s one part of the brain, or the other. Switching back and forth or working them at the same time is extremely difficult. Actually, it really doesn’t happen. Thus, if I am in “composing mode” you will enter a house full of unfinished chores.

This is one reason I stopped teaching at the school. I was so focused on the daily schedule and the constant lesson prep and grading that I couldn’t be creative, even on my days off. Even my blogging slowed way down. My brain couldn’t switch from “practical” to “not so practical” easily enough.

I need to do my organizing when I am in “organize mode.” So, I started a new thing called a Kanban board, an organizational system was invented by people at Toyota. It’s great. It’s like a giant brain-dump that (in my case) is put down on post-it notes organized by “to do”, “working on” and “completed.” I have different colors for my different major project categories: Teaching, Composing/Publishing, Podcast, Home/Health/Herbs. I have to get them hung up on the wall, but here’s a pic:

(You’ll notice that some of the boards have an odd color mixed in. That’s because I spilled coffee everywhere and ruined most of my post-its. That aloofness and absent-mindedness also makes me clumsier…)

The board is designed to cover the next NINETY days, so I don’t have to try and remember everything I have to do or make sure I read every line on a to-do list (or keep from losing the list…It’s kind of hard to lose a big board!) I only have to be in “deep organizing mode” for a short time while planning the board, then the items on the board keep me grounded – with literal physical pieces of sticky paper I can move around – while I spend more time in “creative mode.”

Unfortunately, I can’t keep ALL the nitty-gritty daily details on the Kanban board, like remembering to use a hair scrunchy that actually matches my outfit. But, for the big stuff – the important stuff – it seems to be helping me keep my head on straight.

3 thoughts on “The Trouble with My Two Brains”

  1. This makes sense
    .I believe Bewthoven had this exact.problem.as.did many of the great composers.

  2. I’m not a composer, but I do get hyper focused similar to this sometimes. I may have to look into this method of organization!

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