Right Brain/Left Brain and Steno

To be successful in anything, especially court reporting, CART, or captioning, one has to have both halves of their brain in on the deal. I found an excellent article online that explains the idea that we're really two different people coexisting in the same body. It says that because each half of the brain is wired to the opposite side of the body, one can actually express two emotions at the same time. That helps explain why when I force a smile occasionally, it comes out as a half-smile.

So, to take this concept into the steno realm, sometimes our success as students stems from one side of the brain not really believing that you can pass this test or that graduating from steno school is actually possible. So to succeed we need to get both halves of our brain in agreement.

Steno is a highly left-brained skill, so how do we strengthen our right brain? Some people have great success with hypnosis. Using positive affirmations, meditation, and/or visualization are helpful to others. Other ways to activate the right half of our brain are through lyricless music, our faith, and art. Listen to classical music or jazz while doing finger drills. Sketch a funny portrait of yourself sitting at the front of the courtroom taking down testimony.

So back to how do we train our right brain and left brain specifically in regard to steno? When I was in elementary and middle school, I remember wanting to be ambidextrous. To accomplish that, I used to practice writing with the pencil in my left hand. When I started, my left-handed penmanship was terrible, but I noticed steady improvement as I practiced. It never quite equaled the right hand's handwriting, but I suspect that was more because I stopped practicing it.

I just had a crazy idea: What would happen if I crossed my wrists and had each hand sit on the wrong side of the steno machine and try to do the old S-, T-, P-, H-, S-, K-, W-, R-, -F, -P, -L, -T, -D, -R, -B, -G, -S, -Z? Steno is an ambidextrous skill, so why not see if this could myelinate my neural pathways? I suppose it shouldn't be done for very long or often, as it may create muscle memory, though.

Okay. I've just gone through it a couple times, but already I can tell when the wrong side of the brain takes over for just an instant. One weird thing I notice in the crisscrossed position is that my right hand still wants to operate the asterisk key, though it's with the pinky in this new position. I've never been able to hit the asterisk with my left forefinger. Taking this one step further, maybe that's because the critical, analytical left side of my brain, which controls my right hand, is my inner perfectionist that wants to correct my errors. Spooky.

Not willing to mess with this? Another less radical variation of this technique is the one-handed steno practice that Michelle at Steno101 shared with us. Happy right/left brain stenoing!

POST SCRIPT -- I wanted to make this next part its own post, but it seems I can't separate the two.

Also, in my search for knowledge on this subject, I found this article which describes a book called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle . To paraphrase a paraphrase, it says that with any high-talent, practiced, learned skill, such as stenography, the actual neural pathways that carry the signals down to the muscles required to do the skill become more myelinated, or insulated, thus sending the signals better and quicker in the future.

Coyle's blog recommends something called "deep practice," which includes some tried and true methods such as practicing in 10-minute increments with short breaks in between session. It recommends using overspeed and underspeed as methods of breaking through a "ceiling" or plateau. Seriously, take an hour and check his blog out even if you follow no other link on this page. Everything in there applies to steno.