I am a visual writer.
I close my eyes, and I see the words arranged on a page. I imagine the breathing room between ideas and actions, creating sentences. I’ll rearrange the sentences just as if I’m typing on a computer screen. I’ll think through the combination of nouns with verbs, showing the moment in motion that’s heavy with the scent of jasmine blossoms on a summer’s evening.
I write this way—visualizing the words—until I am ready to put them on real paper.
Honestly, I never gave much thought about my method of writing until I signed up for the 30 Days of Writing: Writing Yourself Alive! I dedicated myself to this pledge of writing, and so I crafted a homemade journal for this project on the eve before it began.
As our lives go—chaos wins over, but I still found some time to think about writing in the morning without interruption. I rested in my bed, writing without my journal. I imagined the words, and then the sentences in my head. Ready to write, but—bam—my world woke up, so I let go of the ability to put pen to paper.
Finally, on the third morning, I realized that I am a visual writer—that’s my style. That’s how it rolls!
I create in my mind’s eye before I forge the words with my fingertips flying across the keys, or my pen over the page.
Of course, I’ll take a moment of raw surprise writing on any day, but my visual writing style often wins.
I prefer the visual writing style because I have to hold my “train” of thought even when I get distracted by the ordinary acts of care.
I suppose this method calls for a non-attachment to a predetermined outcome, as writing becomes more like a puzzle or a game in which I play with the words throughout the day.
Poet Laureate Lucille Clifton used to do something similar. She’d write a poem in her head while being with her children, and at the end of the day, she’d pen the words to paper. I’m not saying that we should forgo our writing self to our daily demands of children, work or more, but we can still be a writer walking through the ordinary spaces.
A year or so ago, I taught my younger son this trick about being a visual writer (although I didn’t have a name for it at the time).
In second grade, my son attended an absolutely amazing charter school with inspiring (guru-like) teachers. His homework was always due on Wednesday. Typically, he’d finish all the math, logic, and vocabulary homework, but he always hesitated with writing in his journal (somewhat of a disappointment for me—how could my own kid not like to write!).
On one of those Wednesday mornings, I dropped his older brother off at the normal K-8 school before heading to my younger son’s charter school. I decided to take the long way, a two-lane road that turned into a pot-holed gravel road, running through the redwood groves of a State Park. I drove slowly in my little car, avoiding the pot-holes that the AWDs and trucks zoomed over.
In the previous school years, I’d used a combo of city bus/scooter/walking to get my two boys to school, and prior to that they rode the school bus. Now I had the privilege of driving my boys to school in one of the most beautiful places in the world—the Mendocino Coast—as the smell of sea salt filled the air.
At the beginning of our morning drive, I’d ask my son to read the question or writing prompt.
On that day, he had to write about a city they were creating in class. So I encouraged him to see the sentences before he wrote. As I drove slowly—occasionally pulling over to let other parents pass—he would come up with a sentence (but not write it down). I asked him another question, and we’d chat about this city that had a big river running through it. He’d laugh, and say that he had another sentence. I asked him to repeat the first sentence out loud, and then add the second one, and so on. Once he had written the paragraph in his head, and said it out loud, then I’d pull over in a safe space at the side of the gravel road, so he could write.
I sat there looking at the shafts of morning light coming through the redwood grove, as the fog began to clear. Oftentimes, I came up with a poem while waiting, but I didn’t write the words down until I got home.
As the Universe enjoys working its magic, our year by the ocean ended, and we returned back to the Valley. My sons are in wonderful schools, yet I still miss those slow morning drives through the redwoods, chattering with my son about how to see the words before you write the words.
Now, as I awake in the early morning trying to take part in the 30 Days of Writing, I gleaned a new piece of awareness. Even if I don’t fill my hand-crafted journal with words in the next 30 days, I am still writing myself alive, especially with the pearl of wisdom that I found today: I am a visual writer.
Jes Wright loves being barefoot, taking deep breaths of orange blossoms while doing yoga, and finds nature in even the most urban spaces. She is an adventurer, enjoying the acts of painting, writing and playful mindfulness in her mostly uncharted journey between northern California and upstate New York, and back again. Jes holds an MA in Individualized Studies (Creative Nonfiction) from Goddard College where she learned the power of Transformative Language Arts. Currently, she’s working on a novel, a poetry chapbook, and being an ever present diplomat for those with Asperger’s. Her writing may be found at elephant journal and on Facebook.
Photo: Going Slo