When you sit down to write a scene, do you see it play out behind your eyes like a movie? Can you close your eyes and bring to mind images of each of your characters? If you’re like the majority of writers, the answer to both those questions is a resounding YES.
If, on the other hand, you’re like me, you may be peering at the questions and wondering what that would be like.
Until last year, I thought people were making it up when they said they could see what they were writing (or reading) like a movie. The concept had about as much credibility as people suggesting I count sheep to help me go to sleep.
And then, about a year ago, I was lost in the procrastination-halls of the internet when I clicked on a BBC article about something called “aphantasia”. Suddenly, I discovered that not only were people not making it up, but that being unable to create visual images in your mind is a rare condition, affecting less than 2% of the population. By definition, aphantasia is a condition wherein someone doesn’t have a functioning mind’s eye.
Not only do I not see movies as I write, I can’t visualise, well, anything. At all. I don’t even dream in pictures. I have absolutely no concept of what it would be like to see things that no one else can see.
When I tell people this, the first reaction I get is generally disbelief. That’s followed quickly by shock and confusion. (For the record, that’s exactly how I feel when people tell me they can see things in their head.) And then I get the question: “But if you can’t imagine things, how can you be a writer?”
First of all, my imagination is just fine, thankyouverymuch. As my parents, teachers, and friends from school would tell you, imagining things has never been a problem. But therein lies the problem: We tend to use the words ‘imagine’ and ‘visualise’ interchangeably.
From the Oxford Dictionary:
Visualise: Form a mental image of; imagine
Imagine: Form a mental image or concept of
So, no, I can’t visualise anything. But I can imagine things just fine. I just imagine them conceptually. If you’re curious what that would be like, try this exercise: [Read more…]