How to Visualize Your Ideas

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
~ E.M. Forster

Let’s face it. We’re visual. We respond to visual stimuli probably more than anything else. We see things and like them or hate them. We are affected by the sight of many things. Our minds churn alive and work double time when we see things. It’s no different with words. When we see words, our minds connect them with myriad sensations and ideas. The sight of words is imprinted in our brain and connected to feelings, both good and bad. Words bring up images our brains have already connected them to. Love. Hatred. Sorrow. Cat. Pet. Home. Food. We will each have a similar image in our minds, but the players and details will vary depending on personal experiences. In the same way, writers can think up millions of ideas but until those ideas are written and can be read back juxtaposed among other words and other ideas, we really have no way of knowing how those ideas will make us react and what other ideas they will stimulate. The written words are our markers for whatever it is we think of. They remind us that there is so much our minds contain that is immeasurable until we record it. Then we realize that our minds contain so much more than we can even imagine and, even better, our minds can generate a great deal more when provided with visual stimulus. That’s why visual aids are so popular. Even when planning whatever it is you want to write, it helps to see your ideas in some for or another. You can work with outlines, charts, plots, graphs, timelines, story frames, and just about anything else you can imagine to make your ideas more concrete. The easiest and simplest might just be jotting down your ideas as bullet points. If you jot each bullet point on a sticky note, you can move them around and arrange them in any number of different ways. If you’re comfortable with research, you can use outlines, beginning with brainstorming words, creating a theme sentence, develop lists into word outlines and expand those to sentence outlines. If you’re even more visual, you can draw charts, graphs, or timelines to depict things from your plot to character traits. Story frames are nifty tools as well, if you’re into sketching, or even just to fill with your bullet points. There’s no limit to your imagination and there’s no hard and fast rule regarding what you can use to create your own visual tools. If you can imagine it, you can put it on paper; if it works for you and keeps you writing, it’s effective. That’s all you really need.

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