Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, November 15, 2010


I am a visual leaner. This is not news to me but I was reminded of it yesterday at my Heart of Dixie meeting when Harlequin Presents author Kimberly Lang gave an excellent program on the writing process.

Plug: Her new book,

Boardroom Rivals, Bedroom Fireworks is out now. Get it! But I digress.

Where was I? Yes, I am a visual learner. Kimberly had a list, much like those "at risk for this disease" lists that you see in magazines and I am an almost textbook case visual learner.

  • I do not and never will story board, but I have pictures of my heroes and heroines on a bulletin board.
  • I have maps of our fictional town, Merritt.
  • I have floor plans of houses, shops, and restaurants, all drawn by Stephanie in an effort, I'm sure, to shut me up.
  • I have the spreadsheet that Stephanie did of what's supposed to happen.
  • I have bookmarked pictures of engagement rings, china, clothes, and virtual tours of my characters' cars.
  • I color code with highlighters and post it notes.
  • I can listen to music with words while I write and it doesn't impede my progress; if fact, it helps me.

But there was this one thing that kept me from being the quintessential poster child for a visual learner.

Usually, visual learners need to keep their desks tidy, to avoid becoming distracted. Though the rest of my house is pretty much always orderly, my writing space in a mess. It doesn't bother me a bit. When I go to my desk, I am in the bubble.

I've seen more than one person's jaw drop upon entering my office area/guest room. Knowing me, they just can't believe I work in chaos. I have book cases, bins, filing cabinets, and good intentions. Really. Right now, piled beside me is my church and Junior League directories (which I use to choose surnames), a Lands' End coupon (that I may or may not use), the books Kathy and I used to name her new characters (which I tossed on the bed when I could have put them on the shelf), CDs, birthday cards (my birthday was in June), piles of change, a broken clock, and many, many other things that I am too embarrassed to tell you about.

I'm going to clean it up. Tomorrow. Just as soon as I write the scene that is cooking in my head. Really.

What is your work space like? Is it important to your process?


  1. Busted!

    Jean, I'm a visual learner too, with smidgeons of kinesthetic and audio thrown in. Lists are distracting to me but help me focus.

    My writing area is a mess, but I also share it with the family. Let me be honest. Most of the junk on the computer surface is mine. I have papers here, papers there, a must have is a calendar on the wall near my desk. I surround myself with things that delight me, a talking Captain Jack Sparrow figure, and a bobble-headed parrot, to name a few.

    To set the historical mood, I cannot listen to music with lyrics. And most music must be era related. I'm almost like Christopher Reeves' character in Somewhere In Time as he removes all things modern from the room in order to cross back into time. LOL!

    Oh! I appreciate the use of your name books, Jean! Though they may be in the way right now, they (and you) sure were a tremendous help. ;)

  2. Jean, I found out I'm more of an auditory learner than anything else. Although I have traits of all three. I do not story board either. I can't imagine it. I also don't outline, except in my head, where everything is kind of fuzzy, and I can change it as I write. :-)

  3. Jean, I agree that Kim's program was great. I already knew that I was a visual learner and like Kathy, I have secondary characteristics of both audio and kinesthetic. I have never put together a storyboard and I'm not much into color coding when it comes to writing. We won't talk about my clothes closet. :-) As for my office...right now, it's very neat, but I am in the beginning stages of a new book. After I finish a book, I clean and straighten the organized mess my office becomes during the writing process. I spread things around me, everything from research materials, including books and magazines to stacks of printouts from my on-line research and dozens of notes about various aspects of the novel. I now keep my character list in two forms -- an open file on the computer and a printed sheet. And no matter how messy my office becomes while I'm working, I can usually find everything in less than a minute.

  4. I like the way you plug a book, Jean. No muss, no fuss, no beating-around-the-bush. :-)

    Since visual learners are helped by what they see, the fact you have all that stuff spread out where you can see it may help keep you in the zone. Horizontal filing is perfectly acceptable. ~grin~

    And remember that I said process is very personal, and that anything I said that didn't work for you could be dismissed entirely without guilt. So love your untidy desk!

  5. How hilarious that the new scene is 'cooking' in your head! You neglected to mention that your kitchen work spot has to be SPOTLESS before you move to the bubble! Perhaps the kitchen needs to be a visual serenity, but the things around your bubble actually trigger your creativity? You have already mastered cooking, but writing is a recipe in practice. Do you wait until the book is finished and then clean up the area? I am not sure that is the case if your birthday cards are still there!
    I am a visual learner, too, but I tend to let things build up around me. I guess, you could say, my whole house is like your workspace. Lots of clutter around. I like to leave things set up, then, with a glance, see what catches my eye. I can glance and see how the colors look, or how the scene is set up, and how it is proportioned. I let my eye scan everything all the time checking for balance. If things are balanced, it creates ease in the visual eye.
    How interesting how everyone works!

  6. I'm definitely visual, but you couldn't pay me to do a collage. I do, however, love to find pictures of my characters on the web and paste them into a Word file set up in notebook layout with tabs. I also sometimes get setting pictures too. I look at them from time to time (I look at the hero much more frequently, LOL).

    My office is a mess, and that might have something to do with why I will often take my laptop and go somewhere else. I can't face the mess -- but I don't have time to clean it up the way I want it either. I keep waiting for the guy who is going to do my built in bookshelves to arrive, but he keeps putting off the day and I'm going crazy over it. I tell myself that once those shelves are in, everything will be gorgeous.

    Yeah, sure. :)

  7. Like many of you I enjoyed the program a lot.
    I already knew that I was a auditory learner. I want to talk about everything. I had always wondered why if I am an auditory learner I hate to be read to. Saturday during Kim's wonderfully informative program the answer came to me...listening to someone els read distracts me from the audio track in my own head. lol

    As for my work space I tend to like my desk neat and since my desk is in a corner facing out I can just turn my back on the rest of the mess. What I can't do is have a bunch of racket going on. I don't listen to music or usually even have the televison on.

    It is very interesting to me to see just how heavily you visual gals outnumber the rest of us.

  8. Thanks for sharing your process with us, everybody! :)

    Melanie, here's where I show my visual force. I do storyboard. LOL! I love opening up m storyboard and feeling surrouded by my characters. But I also love being able to see the chapters as a whole. I use sticky notes in each chapter to get the gist of where I'm going so I don't get off track. And, should the panster in me take over, I simply switch out sticky notes, which helps me keep the story on track.

    Beverly, like you my desk is spread with research. I have to have stuff at my fingertips. And though info may get buried underneath something else, I always know where I put it. ;)

    Kim, your Process class was fabulous the first time you gave it, and even more relative this past weekend. Thanks for making things click again. :D

    Michelle, I hear you on the 'whole house is my work space'. I'll do research in the living room while I have the tv on and leave it stacked on my coffee table too, to the chagrin of my hubby. ;)

    Lynn, I'm so impressed with the program you use to keep things at hand on your computer. As a tactile person, I guess I just need the process of creating an actual storyboard to help get my cobwebs cleared out.

    Good luck on getting your book shelves. I'd love to have built-in book shelves. Though I don't know how this small study could volunteer the space for them. ;)

    Stephanie, if you don't like to be read to, I'm curious as to what you think about listening to audio books. A lot of people listen to them while they commute. What are your thoughts?

  9. Oh! Melanie, I assure you I can spell. Please disregard the above and let me prove it. I meant 'my storyboard and feeling surrounded by my characters'. LOL!

  10. Hey, y'all. I wanted to wait to reply when I could report that I have cleaned up my workspace. I have not. But I got most of my scene written.
    Kathy, it was fun. Only it occurred to me that I was helping you plot. How scary is that?

    Melanie--Auditory huh? A story board or a collage would make me nervous wreck!

    Beverly--I print and keep a file too. Also, I have a notebook that I write in. I don't write in longhand, but I do jot down dialogue and phrases. When I first started writing I would write sitting in line at the pick up line at the middle school. I was obsessed. Once I ran out of paper and wrote on grocery receipt. My friend, Dr. Great Smile, who takes organization to a godly level said, "I don't know you anymore, but I like even better." I can lay my hands on what I need in seconds, so maybe it is a system--just not a pretty one.

    Kim--Horizontal filling, huh? I like that.

    Michele--Ah, you know me so well. And your house is about as far from a mess as anywhere I've ever been. I do not clean when the book is finished. I clean when someone needs to sleep in this room.

    Lynn--I am sure you have an office that those great Alpha Males would be at home in. Otherwise, what's the point?

    Stephanie--This made me think of books on tape. Hate them. I can listen if I'm not driving. I once thought I would like to listen while I sewed. (Remember when we sewed and embroidered? I bet people here don't know that about us!)I tried to listen to one of my favorites--"The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. My mind wandered.

    Kathy--Maybe you could help me make a story board. Ha--Gotcha!

  11. Jean, you were helping me plot and it was oh! so much fun. You've got great ideas. Thanks!

    I'll see your plotting help and raise you a storyboard. In other words, yes! I'm on board. Just say the word and I can take you from a bulletin board to storyboard heaven. ;)

  12. Kathy--Thanks but a storyboard would make me crazy. But, as talented as you are, it would be beautiful!

  13. Kathy, I understood you! No worries! :-)
    I can't listen to anything when I'm revising/editing. It's too distracting. But when I'm strictly writing, in the first draft stage, I like to listen to Andrea Bocelli. He sings so beautifully, in Italian, so it doesn't distract me, since I have no idea what he's saying. It just sounds really romantic.

  14. Jean, I can come over and make one for you. ;)

    Melanie, I love Andrea Bocelli. Hubby listens to him a lot too. His perfect pitch and beautiful voice are such a miraculous force.