Visualisation isn’t only for writers. And if you are a writer, it is not only for your writing. Steven Covey suggests that we spend a few minutes each day in visualization. He recommends that before starting to write, or before tackling any major project, you should sit down and think your way through the process. Let’s look at this from a writer’s perspective.
Charles Garfield is the author of the widely acclaimed “Peak Performance” trilogy: Peak Performers, Team Management, and Second to None. Dr. Garfield discovered, through extensive research, that the world’s most successful people are often people who practice visualisation. He describes how star athletes, top business leaders and NASA astronauts constantly see themselves facing and winning over difficult tasks.
Before I had any children, I knew exactly how they would behave, and more importantly how they wouldn’t behave. At least, I thought I did. We had friends who had a two-year-old boy that did all the things my children would never dare to do. When he got upset with his mother, he stamped his little feet at her for goodness sake! Now that was one thing my child would never do. Fast forward three years.
One way to develop our creativity is to work on our visualising skills. This is true of writers, but it’s also true of every person who wishes to become more creative or do well in a skill. Pianists practice in their minds, going over and over a certain piece until they can do it literally in their sleep. Boxers see themselves overcoming their opponent long before they step into the ring. Actors spend time getting into character before they go onstage or before the camera. Mike Flynt, in his book, The Power Based Life, talks about the need for positive self talk. He says, “If you can dream it you can achieve it”, and encourages the reader to visualize a positive outcome.
When I wrote my first novel, I learned from a writing friend the value of getting to know your characters. I spent ages paging through magazines to find suitable name; a first name from here, a second from somewhere else.
Once I was happy with the names, I worked on their relationships with one another. When I felt I really knew who they were, I sat down again with a pile of magazines and looked for them. It was an amazing exercise. I knew I would recognise them when I saw them, and I did too.
When I was in the middle of aggressive cancer treatment, I mentioned to a strong Christian friend that I was using visualisation to help me deal with the treatment. She went berserk. She accused me of turning my back on the Lord, and of dabbling in the occult. What hogwash.
Elsewhere, I started to share with you an exercise I learned at a local writers’ meeting. If you haven’t followed along, may I suggest you go back to the beginning for the full story? Better still, do the exercise for yourself as you go and find your hidden story waiting to be written.
So on with my story: I now had my character, a black African gentleman by the name of Jabari. He lived in a swanky double-storey home atop a Central African kopje. And in the last post I discovered his story.
Some weeks ago, we started working on an exercise using our imaginations. I have been sharing with you the contents of a writing class I attended some years ago, run by a local author. If you have just joined up now, I urge you to go back four posts and follow the discovery of a story, working alongside until you get back here.
Over the past few posts I have described for you an exercise a S.African writer taught me. I hope you’ve been following along and trying this out for yourself.
I had located a place way back in my childhood and allowed my imagination to recreate the memory for me. I had written a description of the kopje across the road from my childhood home, and the boulder I used to clamber up in order to reach the big old rambling tree. There I could sit on a branch and see for miles. I did my homework in that tree, I read books, and I dreamed dreams.
I’m spending a few weeks leading you through a useful writing exercise which can give you a story out of your memories. If you haven’t read or followed from the beginning, go back two posts to start at the beginning. If you’ve been following along the past few posts, you’ve now described the place of your childhood memories. You’ve added a character. Now let’s move on.
The author leading a group of us through this exercise told us to “fast forward to today.” He explained we were to describe the place as it is today. If you don’t know, then imagine what it might be like.