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The Audacity of the Visually Inclined

Michael Dillon Scott has a very bold face. His eyes are deeply set, his brows are thick and rumpled, and the pronounced divot between his mouth and nose (I looked it up, it’s called a philtrum) gives off the impression that he is constantly on the verge of smiling.

As the author of over 100 books, including a recently completed series called The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Scott attributes his prolific output to the use of visual processes (hence the details — it’s impossible to mention him without getting visual about it).   

The Visual Cue

For starters, he takes pictures. Lots of pictures. Even of spaces that are already ingrained in his mind, like San Francisco, where much of the Flamel series takes place.

“There’s a scene where one of the characters sits on a seat at the Hard Rock Cafe, just to the left of the door. Now, I’ve sat in that seat. I’ve sat in that seat and had a cappuccino. But I took a photograph of that seat so that when it came to write about it, I could pop it up on my screen and let it kick in a whole series of memories.”

He went on to describe those memories in careful detail: the smell of the air, the sounds of the restaurant, the feel of the chair. For Scott and those who operate like him, photographs are doorways to other senses — like selective Synesthesia.

Mind Mapping

These days Scott also uses Mindjet’s software to map out and develop story plots, but if you ask him directly he’ll tell you that he was mind mapping even before he even knew what mind mapping was.

“When I was going to school and writing papers, I would be doodling what I now recognize as mind maps. I would put my main idea in the middle and have little idea branches shooting off like spokes on a wheel or like petals on a flower. I love the shape of it– I love the circular shape, because for me stories are always circular.”

In addition to organization, visualizing the plot helps him spot potential weak points or holes. “I may not always know what I’m missing, but I know I’m missing something. And once I fill it in then I know I’m in a position to write a book. I maintain that if a writer cannot see it, they cannot write it.”

That Perfect Cohesion

Scott’s writing process further supports the belief that a visual approach can help tremendously with breaking down complex ideas and synthesizing them into something meaningful. “We store words and images in different portions of our brain, and if you can mix the two together, you know, left brain and right brain, you have that perfect cohesion,” he explained.

We’ve seen other wonderful examples of this in the past, including Con Edison’s map of the Manhattan rebuild (after the 9/11 attacks), Sunni Brown’s Doodle Revolution in the workplace, and pretty much anything and everything from David McCandless.

The point is that we’re not all visual workers by nature, but we all have the potential to incorporate visual actions. And why not? There’s enough proof that doing so yields exemplary results, and as we’ve often said here on Conspire, it’s all about balance.

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