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How drawing can help you become a better writer

Colored pencils

I’m the world’s worst at drawing. In junior high school art class, the teacher placed a motorcycle in the classroom for students to draw. My attempt was so bad that he suggested I draw a bottle — one of the earlier assignments that we had done. Maybe it was one that I was able to manage (or maybe he thought I needed more practice).

Despite this experience, I’ve never lost my  attraction to drawing or the tools — pens, pencils, sketch pads…crayons, and of course books about drawing. And despite my drawing deficiency, I’ve found I can more fully imagine scenes that I want to write about by drawing pictures of them.

I discovered this one day when a friend and I were writing together, working on our memoirs, and struggling with describing the setting of our scenes. She had just received a gift of a case with colored pencils and it prompted us to draw pictures of the settings we were writing about.

My picture looked like a 6-year-old’s art project, but the act of drawing sparked a memory of the day and details about the event I was describing. I remembered the color of the flowers and the architecture of the house where the scene took place. The act of drawing sparked meaning and memories of what happened at the event.

The picture made a huge difference in how I was able to build out my scene and the resulting chapter. The description even informed the tone of the writing. If you’re having trouble fully describing a setting, try drawing it.

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