Recently I ran across an article that discussed being “Blind in your Mind” here.
It was fascinating to me to read it because I could relate to almost everything the writer said. In fact, several other writers I know said the same thing. Many of us don’t picture things in our heads, and it’s rather bizarre to us that other people do.
Now I want to be clear…I am not as “mind-blind’ as the writer of this article. I dream in color all the time and often can recall snatches of those dreams. And I do, when I think about things I’ve seen in the past, sometimes get a split-second image in my head. It fades away so quickly that I don’t get any details out of it, like an afterimage instead of a true image.
I am far more likely to recall how something moved or words related to something I’ve seen. I cannot close my eyes and picture anyone. Not even myself–like the Bible verse, I walk away from the mirror and forget what I look like.
This does not interfere, as the article specifies, with my ability to recognize people. I can recognize people’s faces both in real life and in photographs (as some other people cannot). But if I close my eyes and try to picture them, I only see blackness.
In fact, the harder I try, the less I get. If I’m trying, I won’t even get the split-second image that I mentioned before. I suspect that my ability to recall visual images is subconscious rather than conscious.
There is probably a continuum at work here, where some people are extreme, like the man in the article. And other people picture everything in their mind’s eye, rather like an internal movie.
Some authors who mentioned having a mind’s eye said they often struggle with descriptions because they can’t get the details right enough to match what they see. For my own part, I struggle with making sure I have enough description to get across the basics for the reader.
One of the ways I deal with this is to use photographs of characters. I often keep those on bulletin boards so I can look at my characters as I’m writing them. That way I know what they look like.
Many of these photographs are from an old stash in tubs that I’ve been collecting since college…a long time ago. I’ve recently started using Pinterest to track my pictures as well. For example, here’s my set of photos that I’m using for The Horn. I can look at the pictures any time to remind myself who my characters are. (Although I also print them out so I can access them when I’m not online.)
So if you’re a writer, do you have this issue? Do you see things in your mind or not? And if not, how do you learn to describe for the reader?