Wreck This Journal: Freedom


When I was in elementary school, I was scolded quite a bit because I wouldn’t follow directions during lessons on handwriting.  It’s not that I was a defiant child, but rather a left-handed one that didn’t understand why I had to turn my paper to the right or why they made me curl my hand all the way around to write from the right.  It was more logical to just tilt everything to the left!  I eventually won the battle, but I learned very early on that being lefty meant being different.  I suppose that’s why I embraced my oddities and nerd status long before before adulthood.

Even though lefties aren’t singled out nearly as much as they were twenty years ago, I remain very aware that I live in a right-handed world.  I still have to hold a manual can-opener at a weird angle and adjust the blade on a pair of scissors to make them work.  Even Wreck This Journal is geared for right-handers, with a page that states “Write or draw with your left hand.” It made no sense for me to do that as its nothing new, so I altered the directions to include both hands.

I decided to do a little drawing and writing in order to observe how switching sides would effect me in more than one realm.  The results were quite surprising and very enlightening at the same time.

For the left, drawing has always been something that doesn’t come easily to me unless I treat it like a doodle and let go of my perfectionist tendencies.  I ended up with a cute coffee cup doodle and neatly written label.  Next, I picked out some fun colors and gave some life to my doodle.  Overall, it was easy and I expected it to be.  I could pay attention to TV while I colored and I didn’t have to think too much about what my hand was doing. My only struggle was deciding whether I liked my doodle.

The right side was a completely different story.  The moment I picked up the pen, I felt weird and disoriented.  My brain was hollering at me, “What are you doing?  That’s the wrong hand!”  I tilted the journal to the right and started drawing a mirror image of the coffee cup.  My immediate attitude going into the drawing was very different in that there was no sense of wanting or needing to be perfect.  I knew it was going to turn out bad, so there was no pressure whatsoever.  I didn’t even have to tell myself it was a doodle instead of a drawing.  The sense of freedom was incredible.

The label, however, was much more difficult as my brain had a hard time processing how to make each letter. I literally had to think about it and that took all of my focus.  The TV suddenly became an irritation rather than a source of entertainment.  I had to turn it off in order concentrate on making an “e.”  Seriously!

Then, I took my crayons and started coloring with my right hand, which is something I’ve never done.  Every nerve in my body told me to switch back to the left and I had to fight it every step of the way.  Coloring is usually a very relaxing practice for me that requires very little thought, but not this time.  Staying in the lines required some hardcore critical thought and it took an insane amount of time to complete the whole page.

Despite the struggle, I’m glad I stuck with it as the process gave me an interesting insight. Creativity thrives on seeing things from multiple dimensions and perspectives.  It’s about discovery and trying something new without hesitation.  My right hand may have made a mess, but it also showed me how to tap into a brand new sense of freedom.

– – –

Previous Wreck This Journal Posts:

Letting Go

Keep Reaching

Ignite the Spark

Be Unpredictable

Embrace Imperfection



Time Flies

Inner Critic

c.b. 2011


45 thoughts on “Wreck This Journal: Freedom

  1. I enjoyed this one especially! I always feel a sense of solidarity when I come across a fellow leftie. Just a few weeks ago I was writing my journal on the plane and the guy across the aisle leaned over and said ‘You have very neat writing… for a left-hander’. Even when he qualified that he was one too, I felt insulted – it’s not our fault we’re being repressed!

    I wonder how lefties get on in Arabic countries?

    Anyway, thankfully I’m not only unusual in that I write and draw with my left hand, but more so in that I do pretty much everything else with my right – sports, scissors and soup can all be disastrous if I try to use my supposedly-dominant left hand.

    Again, enjoyed the post. When I’m not an ocean away from home, I’m thinking I might pick myself up a copy of Wreck This Journal. Thanks for a fun (and very legible) right-handed post!


    • I feel that same sense of solidarity with other lefties! 🙂 I get the same comments regarding legibility of handwriting . . . everyone is always so surprised that it looks so nice. I’ve never been able to figure out why lefties have such a bad reputation for illegible handwriting!

      Thanks so much for reading! 🙂


  2. Love it! You’re so focused on being neat 🙂 For some people, the right-hand drawing would be normal with their dominate hand.

    I love this exercise. I took a really boring art history class in college and I used to spend the majority of the class writing with my left hand. I found that mirror image writing was much easier than writing left-to-write as we do.

    It’s always neat to get an insight into your own creativity and inner workings like this.


    • I love how you turned a boring class into something meaningful for you! 🙂 I once tried to do mirror writing and it was a total disaster – it literally felt like all the wires in my brain got tangled up. Kudos to you for being able to write like da Vinci! Very cool!


  3. As a fellow lefty, I applaud your rebellion! I have terrible handwriting all the way around, but at least I wasn’t forced to write right-handed, as my father was when he was in school. That’s what they used to do to lefties back then.


    • My husband was born lefty and he was switched. It’s interesting to watch him because he often switches between his right and left hand without realizing it.

      As the years go by, I’m noticing more and more lefties in my classroom, so I’m hoping the practice of “switching” continues to die out.


  4. Tammy Jaros

    Okay, I just tried to draw a cute picture with my opposite (left) hand, and it was not anywhere as cute as your’e coffee cup…what the heck??


    • Does it make you feel better to know it took me a reeeaaaalllly long time to draw that coffee cup? 😉 And its still not that great. Lol!

      p.s. Did you try tipping the paper to the left. It helps a lot!


  5. I tried teaching myself to write right-handed at one point. I was never consistent enough for it to be any good, but if my left-hand got stuck in a cast or something I would not be helpless. But you’re right, holding anything in my right hand feels weird.


    • I never thought of using my right hand as a back up! What a great idea! If I injured my left hand I would be in really big trouble. Hmmm . . . more right hand lessons might be in order.

      The funny thing is I drive a stick-shift and that’s an entirely right handed thing in the States. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to shift with my left. 😉


  6. Drawing with one’s “other” hand is quite a common painting/drawing exercise. It helps with connecting “brain modes” in several ways. The main benefit, to me, is that it takes us instantly from “thinking” mode to “observation” mode. Switching from mind chatter (how it “should” be) to focussing on results and letting inner expression come out is very soothing. The most prominent right-handed artist (I can think of at the moment) who chose to paint regularly with her left hand is Georgia O’Keeffe.
    When you drew with your right hand, how did it feel, what happened in comparison to drawing with your left hand?


    • I had no idea O’Keefe painted with her left hand. What an interesting factoid! 🙂

      The right hand was very disorienting and confusing. It literally felt like I was using the “wrong” part of my brain or like I was using a part of my brain that just woke up from a nap.


      • Waking up – that’s pretty much what happened 😀

        If you like, do a little test: Place a cup and a saucer on the table in front of you. Open your journal, and hold it upright so you can compare your drawings with the real cup. Compare first your left-hand drawing with the cup (side-by-side): Your left=hand drawing is very “neat”, but look at the curves at the rim of the cup (especially at the front and at it’s base, and of the saucer. You will notice that in your left-hand drawing the lines are fairly straight in the middle whereas on the real cup they resemble more an oval.
        Now switch your book to the other side and compare your right-hand drawing with the cup. Perhaps you consider this drawing a bit “sloppy” , but again, compare the curves. ❗

        The difference: Your “usual” hand follows your thinking about how a cup should be. Your “unusual” hand triggers non-thought and observation.


  7. I always hate stories about mistreated left-handed children. It just makes me so sad! I myself am a righty though. I once read a studdy that basically showed how a lot of people could actually be left-handed and not know it. I guess this makes sense considering.


    • Absolutely. Cultural conditioning sometimes plays a big role in whether a child adopts using the right or left hand. In years past, some of my students made the decision to switch hands, rather than their parents.

      Thanks for reading. 🙂


  8. Cindy Archer Photography

    First, you have amazing skills in BOTH hands!
    Second, I just tried it and it’s not pretty. So I’m once again humbled by your awesomeness.


    • Thanks! I am so surprised by how well the right hand version came out, but I did have a bit of a headache after the process. That was hard work!

      Oooo, you should post yours. I’m sure your inner critic is being much too harsh on your efforts. 😉


  9. Your doodles are amazing. Thanks so much for sharing this experiment with us. I think it shows how we so often box ourselves in by trying to imitate perfection. When we allow our creativity the freedom to roam, the results are inspiring.

    Also, thanks for stopping by my blog and allowing me to follow you home. I feel quite comfortable here among all your wonderful words!



  10. The one with ur right hand also looks good… I’m trained to be a right handed person (parents, teavher, community) but my natural reflex is left handed… Just ambidextrous I guess


    • In some parts of the world, people are trained to be specifically right-handed despite any natural tendencies to the left. When I was in China I can’t tell you how many times I was asked about being left-handed. It’s exceptionally rare as children are trained to be right-handed because of tradition and/or standardization.

      It’s all so fascinating! 🙂


  11. Lefties of the world unite. The school put me in remedial reading and writing because I had figured out a better way to write for myself.

    Now I go around computer centres putting the mouses (mice?) on the left side of the keyboards. My wife recently even found me a left handed ruler. And the bank in France makes chequebooks that are hinged from the top so that they can be used by both types. I always complain when things are not left hand friendly, I have regular rants to anyone listening.

    Have you, as an aside read the book by Chris McManus. Right Hand, Left Hand. A brilliant look at all aspects of cultural, social and scientific symmetry. I found it fascinating, and I don’t know the author.



    • Back when I had a laptop that only had one USB (on the right of course), I had to make sure the mouse I bought had a long enough cord to reach around so I could put the mouse on the left.

      Spiral notebooks are the bane of my existence as is my daily planner. And lets not forget what writing with a pencil does to the side of my hand after writing for a long period of time! Ahhh! Okay, rant over. Lol!

      I haven’t read that book, but I’m definitely going to look in to it as it sounds very interesting! Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂


  12. Great post! Your observations about multiple perspective and being in the spirit of discovery are so true. I’m left handed but was never taught to curl my hand above my writing. I remember having my hand slapped in 1st and 2nd grade in an attempt to make me switch. Didn’t work. I can write with both hands, but as with your drawing, I have to go slow and thoughtfully.


    • Thanks!

      I’m horrified to hear you were slapped, but thrilled that it didn’t work. There is definitely something to be said for standing up for who you are, especially when it goes against the norm. Perhaps that’s the ultimate plight of a lefty. 🙂


  13. I am Ambidextrous. I write with my right hand. And all the rest is done with my left hand. So a lot of people get confused as to what I am. I am left handed. I was all left handed and my mum made me to write with my right hand. But when I am very nervous or anxious, i start to write with my left.

    And that is some great piece of art my friend. We lefties are the best!!! Go team Left!


    • Yay lefties! 😀

      Your story is quite fascinating. Those emotions trigger instinct, which overrides what you were taught. It makes me wonder just how much forcing a child to switch impacts thinking, creativity, and learning. I know my brain felt very different from switching sides, but I can’t even begin to imagine how that sensation would intensify over a long period of time.


  14. Impressive, and I like both illustrations equally – they are different but unique. It’s pretty amazing that one person (you) drew them both!

    Back in USSR, where I was born, teachers would bind the lefty’s hand so he/she would be forced to be like everybody else. Glad this isn’t the case in the States.


    • Wow, I had no idea it could be that severe in other places. I’m glad its not that way here in the States, too, but I do remember forced switches from when I was growing up. I like to think the practice is dying out and I hope it continues to decline every where. Lefties and righties alike deserve to be who they are! 🙂


  15. hey fellow leftie!!
    i always hated gym class the most growing up – not just because i was terribly awkward at sports, but because i was always the only left handed kid and they made me stand by myself so i could learn the ‘skills’ separately. great idea for a super shy self-conscious kid huh 🙂

    thanks for the story


  16. Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your trip through Wreck this Journal, and how you describe what you learned with each exercise. I’m a righty-but my left hand is better behaved and more skilled on the harp. That’s usually not so for a right-handed person. But I seriously doubt that I’d pull off a non-dominant hand drawing with the life that yours has.


    • Thanks so much for reading – I’m glad your enjoying the journey!

      I once took lessons for playing the violin and that experience really showed me right hand was capable of far more than I ever gave credit. It took Wreck This Journal to remind me to give it chance every now and again. It appears music has a way of giving both hands their day in the sun. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.