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In keeping with Joss Whedon’s “eat dessert first” philosophy of writing, I’ve been dipping into some books that approach writing from a different angle: visually. Here are a few that have intrigued me.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards.

“A course in enhancing creativity and artistic confidence.” Truly a course in perception, this is a fascinating look at how the two modes of our brains — the verbal, analytical mode and the visual, perceptual mode — work as we create. Edwards asserts that when we draw (a task best left to the visual, perceptual mode), our stronger verbal, analytical mode takes over. She takes the reader through various exercises, teaching anyone (and I do mean anyone) how to tap into the visual, perceptual mode and perceive what’s before him, and then translate that to paper.

While engaging with this text may seem to negate all the verbal stuff we do as writers, I think it actually brings a new dimension and a balance to our words. I find that it’s also relevant in thinking about drafting (creative, visual, perceptual) versus revising (verbal, analytical).

The Trickster’s Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity, Nick Bantock.

This book begins with a dedication: “For the wide-eyed wonderers.” While Bantock may have specific “wide-eyed wonderers” in mind, I’d like to put myself in the category of wide-eyed wonderer, wouldn’t you? After the dedication comes a warning: “If you want a shortcut to originality…this isn’t the book for you. On the other hand, if you’re wiling to be led hither and thither down unlikely paths by a fellow of dubious reputation, if you’re prepared to keep a sense of humor and not be fazed when he plucks the unexpected out of a mischief-stuffed hat, if you’re ready to zigzag, detour, and wander if search of a better understanding of your artistic core, then please feel free to slip-slide further into these pages.”

Again, this is a book that begins with artistic creation, but continues into both visual and verbal meaning. And he uses “hither and thither” in the second sentence.

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff Vandermeer 

“[T]he history of the world could be seen as an ongoing battle between good and bad imaginations…. Your imagination and your stories exist within this wider context, and sometimes you’ll find you need to break free of other people’s imaginations to allow your own uniqueness to shine through.”

Wonderbook is a dense book, full of images, stories, exercises, and wisdom. It turns to visual art in order to understand how to create fiction.

Picture This: How Pictures Work, Molly Bang

“Our feelings arise because we see pictures as extensions of the real world. Pictures that affect us strongly use structural principles based on the way we have to react in the real world in order to survive. As soon as you understand these principles, you will understand why pictures have such specific emotional effects.”

This is a brilliant little book (and the only book of the four that I’ve finished so far, seeing as how it’s only 96 pages and mostly illustrated). It analyzes the reasons why shape, color, and composition evoke certain emotions.

Even if you feel like you don’t have an artistic bone in your body, I recommend checking these books out. They provide an antidote to BIC, and give your brain something new to chew on: dessert.

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