by Amy M. O’Quinn
Like most other Americans, I did some major goal setting at the beginning of the year for the next twelve months. I have some good intentions, and perhaps this will be the year I have the satisfaction of completing them by December 31st.
I have often heard that writing down the things you want to accomplish is the first key to success. I recently read a book called Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser, and while I don’t necessarily endorse or plan to do everything she recommends, I do think it’s a good resource for anyone who is interested in goal setting. It is a book that really helps the reader “focus” on what he/she wants to achieve, and how to take the necessary steps to move forward.
However, another important key is visualizing or having a clear picture in our minds of exactly what it is that we want to do or be. It is a driving factor to keep us motivated through the whole process. We can “see” the prize or outcome, and that picture keeps us going.
Is Visualization Effective?
I recently heard of two stories that illustrate how effective visualization can be. The first was about an experiment done where two groups of basketball players were shooting free throws. The first group of players actually practiced shooting free throws for at least an hour a day for several days that week. The other group of players was not allowed to actually shoot the ball at all. However, they were required to picture themselves shooting free throws for the same amount of time as the first group—but only in their minds. They had to ‘incorporate’ all five senses as they visualized themselves shooting the perfect free throw. At the end of the experiment, when both groups actually got on the court to shoot, the ‘visualizers’ outperformed the other group!
Another story involved a POW during the Vietnam War. Before capture, this young man had been an avid golfer, so to pass the time in his small cell, he ‘played’ the game of golf in his mind every day. He’d go through every course he ever played, and visualize each and every detail. After his release some ten years later, he played his best golf game ever! As one writer commented, his body carried out what his mind already knew how to do!
Visualization for Writers
So what does visualization have to do with writing success? It’s the same principle as if we wanted to lose weight, redecorate a room, or eliminate debt—we “see” the outcome in our mind’s eye. We are able to recognize the benefits, advantages, and rewards that will be ours if we reach the goal. In addition, that vision spurs us on to action to get the job done.
Do you picture yourself holding a book with your name on the cover, or perhaps simply reading a story to your children that you wrote with them in mind? Do you see yourself doing an author visit or presentation at a school or library, or maybe even passing out copies of the family history you compiled to your loved ones? What will it take to make those images into reality? One thing is for sure—you’ll already be motivated!
Story or Scene Visualization
There is also another type of visualization, called story or scene visualization. When I am writing a manuscript, I must first “see” the different segments of my story played out, much like a movie, in my mind. I need to picture the characters—what they look like, how they sound, how they move, etc. I also need to smell, touch, and perhaps even ‘taste’ these parts of my story as much as possible.
When we as writers immerse
Lately, I’ve taken to walking before sitting down to work each morning.It’s a slow, meditative walk that lets me immerse myself in my story rather than in the neighborhood (and neighbors) around me.With each step, I try to envision my characters in certain situations so that I can sit down at my desk when I return home with a clear picture in my head of the scenes that may unfold during the hours
Several months ago I put out a question on Twitter asking members of my professional learning network how they were using infographics in their advocacy efforts. It was a little surprising to me that only one person responded with an example. Others responded by saying things like, “Oh, that’s a good idea.” But, it looked like people weren’t using infographics as a way to inform their library community about what they do and why they do it.
Then I talked with YALSA Board member/Strategic Planning Chair and high school librarian Priscille Dando about data, advocacy, and infographics and I found out that she used PowerPoint to create a visual that demonstrated the use of her library in the spring of 2010. One thing that really struck me about Priscille’s infographic was that it was produced simply with PowerPoint, a tool that most (if not all) librarians have access to, and it used clip art to effectively get out the message that the high school library is an active vital part of the school community.
Perhaps one of the reasons that more librarians aren’t using infographics in order to tell their library story is because it seems like they are difficult to produce. As Priscille’s visual demonstrates, it doesn’t have to be a challenging activity. Along with PowerPoint and clip art there are a host of tools available for creating infographics. These include:
- Many Eyes – This tool from IBM gives users the chance to upload data and create visual displays for that data. Display types include charts, graphs, and word and phrase clouds. One really nice feature of Many Eyes is that when reviewing the types of visualizations the site provides tips on what each type is best used for. For example, under the heading “see relationships among data points” scatterplot, matrix chart, and network diagram are listed.
- Creately – This is a web-based tool (with a desktop version also available) that provides templates for a wide-variety of types of diagrams, including some specifically geared to those in K-12 education. A good feature of Creately is that it’s possible to collaborate with others when using the program for infographic building and design.
- Wordle – Many blog readers are familiar with Wordle and it’s good to remember that this is a tool that can be used to create advocacy-based visuals for the library. Think about how you might use Wordle to display visually all of the ways that teens describe the library. Or to show the words and phrases that come up over and over again when teens and others in the community talk about the value of library teen services. If you start to think about it I bet you’ll see that Wordle has a lot of potential as an infographic building tool.
Along with knowing how to create infographics it’s also important to think about what data is best to use in a visual display. Not all information lends itself to this format. In the article Ten Awesome Free Tools to Make Infographics the author states, “Remember that it’s all about quickly conveying the meaning behind complex data.” As you look at the data and information that you want to get across to members of your community keep that idea in mind. Ask yourself questions like:
- Which data lends itself to a visual display?
- What data is going to best help others understand the role of library teen services within the community?
- Is there data that when shown visua
This is the cover of my newest book, Assembly, from Ready Ed publications. I was pleasantly surprised just now when I went to the Ready Ed website and found the book listed there as I'd thought the release date was February or March - although I've had my author copies for ages. So, a nice surprise, as I say - and an even nicer surprise to see that it is the bestseller in its category on the
I went to Kathleen Duey's website this morning, desperately hoping for news of the next volume in her A Resurrection of Magic sequence. Alas: none. According to her interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Book Two is coming out sometime in 2008. Anyone know more?
Anyway, my real reason for posting: Kathleen Duey posts a lot of photographs to her blog of places and items she visualizes when she's working on her book. An elaborate dome in an Abu Dhabi hotel lobby becomes the ceiling of the king's library in Limori; these keys become part of the story as well. Duey apparently uses this technique a lot when "world building" in her fantasy novels.
I can usually get a pretty good picture of people and places when I'm writing realistic fiction, because I can draw on my own experiences. (e.g., I've seen quite a few public schools in my life.) But whenever I've tried to write speculative fiction, too many details are vague because I haven't been able to fully visualize the world. Maybe I can persuade my father to part with some of his 50 million National Geographic magazines and mine them for ideas!