We are musicians, artists, engineers and authors. These are occupations where we create images and think in terms of a whole picture.
I recently read an article, written by Gerald Grow of the School of Journalism at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. I was intrigued by his theory on how the type of thinker we are influences the way we write. He says, “Visual thinking produces whole, patterned expressions such as maps, symbols, and pictures. Verbal activity leads to sequences such as narratives and explanations.” He goes on to say that visual thinkers tend to write briefly-evoked scenes about one another with little connective explanation. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but it’s a good topic to ponder.
Indeed, a lot of what I read in genre fiction is written in 30-second sound-bytes, and it is because 3 generations of our society have become dependent on visual entertainment delivered in short segments–small pictures if you will. Reading is not as popular as it was, since many people think it’s much less work to watch A Game of Thrones than it is to read it.
I disagree–getting lost in a great book is not work at all! That reminds me, I should probably read that book. I own it, I started reading it in 1996, but had a hard time following the way it jumped around. I put it aside and never got back to it. But now I’m curious as to why folks are so crazy for it.
Gerald Grow also writes, “Since everything tends to happens at once and in present time to visual thinkers, they tend to choose static verbs, the passive voice, and heavily depend on forms of the verb ‘to be.’”
When we first start out in this craft we tend to write weak sentences. This is because we are approaching it from the point of view of the story-teller. We sit down and tell the story, and that is quite verbal when you think about it. I think it has more to do with lack of experience than how a brain visualizes, because we all seem to start out that way.
Weak narrative happens when, as story-tellers, we are separated from the moment by words that block our intimacy with the action:
Many of us do not have an education in journalism, and yet we choose to write. As we grow in the craft, if we want our work to be enjoyed by many people, we train ourselves to craft stronger sentences.
We write short stories, and send them off. Sometimes they are rejected, and sometimes not. We write longer short stories, novellas. We write novels, sometimes with WAY too many words. Our writing groups give us support and good, honest critiques. We know they will not tell us our work is awesome, if it stinks like Bubba’s socks.
They may tear it apart. But we grow from this experience. We learn that opinions are subjective, and writers are opinionated prima donnas–and we will do anything to never have that experience again.
Learning the craft of writing is like learning the craft of carpentry–if you want to craft beautiful work, you must choose to learn what the proper tools for the job are and how to use them. My toolbox contains:
- MS Word
- The Chicago Manual of Style
- The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation
- The Olympia Writers Co-Op
- NaNoWriMo Write-Ins
- Trusted, knowledgeable beta-readers
- Good, well recommended editors
- online writing classes
- regularly attending seminars
- reading in my genre
What is in your toolbox? You might be surprised at just what you have acquired in the line of tools for advancing in this craft. Whether you are a visual thinker or a verbal thinker, you have the ability to express your ideas.
It takes a lot of work to rise from apprentice to journeyman to master in any craft. I don’t know if I will ever achieve that status as an author, but I will keep working and learning. and above all, I will keep reading.