It started with brushing my teeth left-handed. At first, my movements were clumsy, and I feared I wasn’t getting off all the tartar, and the dentist would reprimand me on my next visit. Also, I discovered when I employed my left arm, my dominant right just hung there like a drooping, effete claw. Accustomed to carrying all the workload, my right didn’t know what the hell was going on.
With practice I improved at brushing my teeth. I gained confidence and added cooking prep to my left-handed repertoire. Dicing, chopping, slicing. Dangerous perhaps to use such sharp objects left-handed, but I worked slowly, carefully. Every task took twice as long and one time I did slice my right index finger and should have gotten stitches but instead tightly taped the wound together. Couldn’t use the right hand much after that anyway, which I took as a good sign, because I was determined to become left-handed.
She thought I was being foolish, but she didn’t protest, even though at night when we’d gotten in bed and I began pleasuring her with my left hand it was apparent those fingers didn’t possess that same silky magic as those on the right. She had been the one who suggested I try to shake things up a little when I admitted I needed a creative spark. Not in a million years would she have guessed this is what I’d come up with. She had no idea how desperate I really was.
When I started playing catch left-handed I was nothing short of pathetic. My throwing motion was a mistimed piston. I let go too late and the ball struck the ground. I let go too early and the ball lobbed off to the left. I kept practicing and eventually got better, not nearly as good as with my right, not even adequate, but I gained enough accuracy to have a game of catch with little Davy Jr.
Teeth brushing, cooking, ball throwing. Next, I painted our living room almost entirely left-handed, both with the roller and the brush. It took four days instead of two, and my palm and fingers, unaccustomed to repetitive manual work and lacking dexterity (but improving), often cramped. When I finished, the job looked well done.
I’d found these studies that reported left-handed people are more creative than right-handed people. That’s why I embarked on this odyssey. It was all about creativity.
What I liked most about learning to use my left hand was that I had to pay much closer attention to my task, really concentrate and focus, and engaging in that mindfulness, along with steady improvement in left-handed performance, was rewarding. She didn’t quite get it. She’d broken her right arm once as a kid and had to do everything left-handed. She hated every minute of it.
Are you at least feeling a creative spark? she asked.
I might be. I could be.
I’d been putting off the litmus test. I thought if I became proficient at other tasks first, then writing left-handed would come easier, the learning curve wouldn’t be as steep. I took up a pen and tried to write left-handed for the first time. The world’s most skilled codebreakers couldn’t have deciphered what I’d written. Not only that, I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write because I spent so much time trying to form letters and words, and shaking out cramps in my fingers and wrist, that I lost my line of thought and whatever idea I’d been pursuing vanished.
Still, I persevered. I went back to basics and started with writing the alphabet, forming cursive letters the way I’d been taught back in second grade, practicing my penmanship. I’d been good at cursive back then—with my right hand—one of the first in my class permitted by the teacher to transition from printing to cursive.
When I thought I’d reached an acceptable level of legibility, I decided to write her a love poem, thanking her for her nudge to shake things up in my life as a way to spur creativity. I wrote beginning to end, without pause, the words just flowed from me in a creative torrent I’d been missing.
I gave her the poem. She looked at the page torn from my notebook. She moved her eyes back and forth over each line, her forehead folded into a frown, her head almost imperceptibly shaking back and forth. She smiled and said, thank you, you’re so sweet.
Then I found a study that refuted the claim about left-handed people being more creative. Instead, left-handed people simply self-report they are more creative, but in actuality, they are not. I can’t blame them. Who doesn’t want to be creative? I went back to my right hand.