Picture Writing

You all know I’m taking a mental break from one of my nonfiction projects. This is a source of frustration for me because I don’t like unfinished projects. When I get to the point in a manuscript when I feel too close to the story to cut any more, I put it away – out of sight. Then I head to the library to gather more books in my genre but on different topics. And I reach into my own shelves for a book about the craft of writing. I have a bookcase full of them. Somehow, they serve as personal trainers for my mind.

This time, I grabbed Anastasia Suen’s book, Picture Writing. I’ve read the book from cover to cover in the past. It is a great resource and writing class in one, covering everything from plot, character, and setting development to polishing manuscripts for submission. This time, however, Chapter One- WHAT IS PICTURE WRITING?, hit me on a therapeutic level.

It all boils down to the creative process. “The left side of the brain is the logical side and likes to move quickly. The logical side of your brain works with words.” But, not the lyrical and poetic words we long for.

By contrast, “The right brain is the opposite of the left brain in almost every way imaginable.” “It thinks in symbols, in pictures. Where the left brain is careful and deliberate, the right brain is spontaneous.” The left brain might be wordy, but the right brain delivers metaphor, imagery, and playfulness. Neither half is better than the other. They must intersect to work together. And they both need time to process.

Suen continues with the all-important fact that “…intuition is the center of the creative process. It is the heart. Frustration is your clue that your project has entered a new phase. Stop hitting your head against the wall. Embrace the change.” Amen, Sister!

Though my current projects aren’t new to me, I feel a sense of relief in knowing that my crazy routine of writing, revising, rewriting, tweaking, “oh my goodness, I can’t cut another word” or “I can’t find the right wording” rants are just part of the normal creative process. My instinct to put the manuscript away is normal.

It’s important to note that writers may go through these processes many times for a single book. Here are the five steps in the creative process, according to PICTURE WRITING: See if you don’t agree.

Stage 1- Preparation- “You get a new idea and gather information about it.”
This is where writers read, research, outline, and churn out those first, often crummy, first drafts.

Step 2- Frustration – “Your project gets stuck.”
It feels like writer’s block. Writers freeze. “Nothing seems to work.” The left brain work is finished for now. It’s time for the right brain to chime in. In its own time.

Step 3- Incubation- “Your subconscious works on the project.”
“In reality, your subconscious mind is on the job even though it looks like it’s asleep. During incubation, your project has entered the right brain stage.” Your intuition begins to work while you’re awake and while you’re asleep.

Step 4- Illumination- “The A-Ha! moment of insight.”
“There you are, doing something else, not working on the project at all, when it comes to you- the answer you need. You see the light. A picture pops into your brain.”

Step 5- Translation Into Action- “You take your insight and put it to work.”
Your left brains translates the illumination into words. “Words pour out of you. They come so quickly you have to scramble to captrue them on paper.”

Quote for the Day: “Picture Writing is whole-brain writing, where one side of your brain sees pictures and the other side gives the pictures words.” —Anastasia Suen