Why authors should learn to draw

Tom Evans is an author’s mentor, writer’s unblocker and founder of the eprint Commutabooks. Follow him on Twitter at @thebookwright.
The Confident Creative
I’ve just finished reading an excellent book by Cat Bennett called The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind.
I do remember being quite good at art when I was at school but got thrust down the academic route and now I’m one of those people who’s drawings look like they are done by a 7 year old.
I would dearly like to be able to draw and paint but it’s one of these things on the To Do list that I never seem to get around to.
I’ve even got as far as the third chapter of Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain – but other stuff got in the way of going any further – mostly writing as it happens.
When I read Cat’s book, I realised that being able to draw is not something which is a nice-to-have skill – perhaps just so I could do my own illustrations or even my front cover. My current designers don’t have to worry about their jobs just yet though!
There are areas of the brain (and mind) that are activated, exercised and honed by the very act of drawing. As such, for authors, drawing actually makes you a better writer.
I tested this out as a theory over the last two weeks while working on the 1st draft of my next book. Before I started the project, I did the mind expanding exercises in Cat’s book and even sketched a couple of versions of ideas for a front cover. Then before starting each chapter, I spent five minutes doodling around the themes I was writing about.
I found that this got me completely in the zone, as much as any meditative practice, and took my mind into new areas of exploration. I ended up writing in a different way than I have done before and than I had consciously planned. I found I was using more layered metaphors and using much more descriptive language.
I am so thrilled to hear Cat is coming to the UK in September to run one of her Confident Creative Retreats (25-26 September in London) and have booked on it already.

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Tom Evans

Tom Evans is a published author and poet who also mentors other authors in the writing and publication process. He is a specialist at curing both writer's and author's blocks - and yes, they are different. He works with clients on a one-to-one basis and runs regular Blockbusting workshops. He teaches the principles of whole brain and whole mind thinking and how to get our minds into the state where they can tap into unlimited creativity. Follow him on Twitter at @thebookwright.

6 thoughts on “Why authors should learn to draw

  • 21st May 2010 at 11:45 am
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    I’m an artist and a writer.
    As such, I’d always suspected a connection like this & had been thinking about it a lot recently as well as the usefulness of doodling in the learning process.
    The other day notes for a scene wound up being done entirely in quick sketch form. Granted it’s for a comic book series but it was the quickest way to get my thoughts down for that scene as it played in my mind it was a scene had been sleeping on for awhile, and I’ll have to flesh out the notes with something written for it but I’ve much more time to get it all down now before it drifts away.
    Then the next night I was working on new scenes for some future parts of my ongoing online horror series Decadent Angels (http://decadentangels.bentrealm.com), which is not a comic book series, and I was doodling in the margins of the notebook – it thoroughly helped me stay focused on what needed to go in the scene. Awhile back I did a little diagram in my notes for the structure of the universe in that series. That little drawing really helps me keep track of how it works. When I did that for it, it was somewhat of a revelation for how much clearer it made a lot of the concepts involved in the story, with such a simple drawing. Doing those sorts of diagrams for tons of my other writing projects instantly seemed a great idea. Now knowing that other people are really looking into the uses of drawing as a writing tool, I’m only encouraged to come up with more ways to incorporate drawing into my writing process.
    It never occurred to me to doodle before starting to write chapters or blog entries, but now that you mention it, doodling and drawing whilst writing really does get me in the zone faster and keeps me there. Should prove extra useful in the writing projects that are also comic book series…

  • 21st May 2010 at 8:22 am
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    Wow I had no idea I’d tripped across such a rich way to increase your creativity in writing via drawing. This is something I am going to embed in all my writing workshops now. Thanks Maya and Elizabeth for opening my eyes so much by confirming what Cat’s book taught me.

  • 20th May 2010 at 6:47 pm
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    Hi Maya and Tom! It’s great that you’re using a drawing as a tool for writing! What it does is take us out of our linear thinking and opens our minds so we can get inspiration. It really helps us see new ideas when they arise and act on them immediately-which is how to get into the creative flow. I like your drawings, Maya! You’re right—drawing can help us see connections too. Onwards!

  • 20th May 2010 at 2:25 pm
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    I completely agree– I noodle with the pictographs on my blog long before I get a post finished and I find they make the process of thinking through the ideas that much easier. Plus, people go crazy for them: the ducks in this post http://stayoutofschool.com/2010/05/fundamentals-and-jazz-part-2-connection/ are pretty popular : )
    In fact, my last post is the first in a long while which only included 1 chart I’d made while I was writing and I was concerned that perhaps the work wasn’t be as good. I definitely think you’re on to something; thanks for bringing it up!

  • 20th May 2010 at 7:39 am
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    Thanks Maya – love your doodle & your blog. I now doodle before starting each chapter of my new book or each blog I write. It’s taken me in so many new directions. I think drawing might be becoming my new meditation!!

  • 19th May 2010 at 7:16 pm
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    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for this post. I haven’t tried this yet, but it seems a great idea.
    I do, however, draw little pictures or just “doodle around” in order to structure my thoughts before writing sometimes. Here is an example: http://bit.ly/bfJKMI.
    It’s not fine art, but helps me remember things or see connections that I might miss otherwise. I also draw “mind maps”, which have more text than pictures (example: http://bit.ly/aysgHG)
    Best regards,
    Maya

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