Sunday, 15 April 2012

Colouring The Maps

The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours

The History Boys by Alan Bennett

I discovered this passage in Susanna Kearsley's 'Sophia's Secret' and it really struck a chord with me:

My father would have called what I was doing 'colouring maps'. That is what he called it when I filled in time and wasted effort, in his view, by taking lots of trouble to do something wholly unessential, as when I coloured maps in high school for geography, feathering blue round the shorelines and shading in valleys and hills. But he always said it fondly, as though he also knew and understood that there were times when what the brain most needed was to simply colour maps.

My experience was almost identical, in that despite being told not to waste my time with unnecessary details, I too found it cathartic to colour the maps. I still do, figuratively speaking, by setting up a timeline database, collecting pictures of where the story takes place, outlining each scene, 'drawing' my characters appearance and personalities. All necessary to a writer, but prompts others to say,'Why don't you just write the story?'

I will - but colouring maps helps me think.


Talli Roland said...

I was just going to say that! Those things might seem like wasting time to others, but for writers I think it can help spark off new ideas and let your mind wander in new directions.

Jen Black said...

I loved colouring maps! I do all those other things you mention, too, and I don't think it's time-wasting at all. It all helps to solidify the story in the mind.

Deborah Swift said...

As writers I bet we all need different ways of just letting the mind meander.It seems to be an essential part of creativity, but one other people find hard to understand. I stare into space a lot!I loved the quote from Sophia's Secret. Nice post, thanks!