I Was A Middle Aged Writer

August 31, 2009

Other Ways to Think?!

Filed under: Uncategorized — danielrdavis @ 3:10 pm

The other day, a discussion on Magical Words touched upon thought processes and that some people think in words and others think in pictures or scenes, visually. This blew my mind. Not only because I didn’t know that there were people who thought all in words, but that so many of the writers there thought almost exclusively in words. I also found, while discussing it with my wife, that she’s one who thinks more in words than visually, but she has a bit of the visual, which I’ll get into in a bit.

This threw me for a loop first because I wasn’t aware that other people thought almost exclusively in words. I couldn’t figure out just how that would work. Is a sunset just the word sunset or does a full color scene of a sunset appear? Evidently, in some cases, it’s just the word. The other reason why this threw me was because thinking visually is such an integral part of how I write that I couldn’t imagine any other method.

When I write, I see the scene play out, like a movie (or anime, in some cases) and I have to use my words to convey and describe just what I’m seeing. Now, I can see how this could make writing easier and I could see how it could make it harder. If you have a good grasp of words and how to use them to describe a scene it would be a simple matter of visualizing and then typing out what you see. However, if you didn’t have good skill in using words to describe a scene then a sunset is just a sunset, not an early evening awash in the golds and coppers of the setting sun. Night just beginning to encroach, mixing the hint of its violets and burgundies in a breath taking cascade of color. I couldn’t imagine not being able to do that.

My wife says it’s probably why I’m very good at description and writing combat, because I can actually see the action taking place and describe it. I never realized just how important thinking visually is for me. I’ve found that it’s even more important when I’m writing scripts because I can see the scene changes, the cuts, the breaks, the camera angle changes, etc. This helps greatly when writing movie scenes. Again, I couldn’t imagine trying to write a film script without being able to do that.

Now, my wife thinks predominantly in words, but has some visual thinking. If she concentrates she can think visually, but it’s more like in line drawings, black and white, like pencil drawings and her characters tend to look shadowy if she tries to visualize them. However, we also found through testing that if I say a noun, like a car or a bird, she’ll get a quick flash of the thing in question, but if it’s something else, like silence, she’ll think of just the word and meaning. For me, if I think of silence, I get being in a place that’s completely quiet, like a still field with no sound around me.

It was such an interesting thing to me that I had to look it up and found a decent Wiki Article that talked about the differences and I found that the mention that 2/3rds of the world thought visually, as was mentioned on Magical Words, was not completely correct. It seems the majority of the human race thinks in some combination of both, at about 45%. Less than 30% are strongly visual and only around 25% think only in words. Now, it also claims that of that 30%, an even smaller number are what they call “true picture thinkers” and I seriously think that’s what I am. I can’t ever remember a time when I’ve thought words over visual.

This can definitely result in some people not being able to learn certain concepts based on the teaching method of the teacher. Art class would be a pain in the butt for word thinkers, I would think, being unable to visualize what they want to do. However, as I told my wife, it could be a very good reason why I’m never ever satisfied with what I draw/paint/etc, because it never quite lives up to what I see in my head.

Now I find myself going around, asking family and friends how they think. It’s actually giving me a bit of insight into why they do certain things or why I can’t convey concepts at times. It’s an interesting subject.

So now I’m going to ask those of you who are reading, how do you think? Do you think visually, with words, or some combination of the two, and how, if at all, does it affect your life, career, etc?



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