by Jon Pearson
A picture is a thousand words. Actually, according to the original Chinese saying, a picture is ten thousand words. So, maybe thinking better visually can help us think better verbally. If I ask you, “What was your favorite birthday?” your brain goes on a picture search, not a text search. You’re not reading words but sifting (subliminally) through pictures at lightning speed until specific scenes and feelings pop up, which only then may be put into words.Now, what if there were a magical tool for tapping this constant river of images, feelings, sensations, and un-formed ideas that flows by sub-verbally, the thinking beneath your thinking, so to speak? There is. It’s the world’s oldest written language and your first written language — drawing. And it may be the world’s next written language, since symbols “read” more immediately and universally than words.
Most people, though, think of drawing as drawing, not writing. And then they think, “I can’t draw.” And by this they usually mean they can’t draw “things”: people, horses, houses, trees. But what if you didn’t have to draw “things” and you didn’t have to draw “well” and you didn’t even have to make “sense?” What if you could draw from your belly, your solar plexus, your left knee? And not just your head?
What if you could draw the taste of mayonnaise, the sound of a door closing, the smell of rabbit fur, the feeling of being happy, tired, and brave all at once. What if you could draw the meaning of the word “because” or “vision” or “stubborn” without drawing “things,” just lines and shapes and bursts?
Take a piece of blank white paper. Fold it into four squares. Now, pick a word: “gratitude,” “honesty,” “courage” and make an eight-second drawing of the word in one of the squares. Without thinking. Without planning. Without getting things “right.” Do the same for all four squares. Now, talk about what you drew. See what you think when you’re not thinking about it.I have had thousands of people do this. A woman recently took the word “love.” She did four spontaneous drawings entirely of circles. Afterward she said, “I have been married twenty-three years. I love my husband. Now I know exactly why. I want to frame this drawing and put it over his desk at home.” A man took the word “gratitude” and realized he needed to be more and more grateful about smaller and smaller things, just by making a wavy diagonal line. Another man realized that “honesty” didn’t mean stepping into the light, but being the light. It took him eight seconds to see something he had never realized before.
Drawing is pure magic. It helps us think farther and faster in ways that thinking “harder and longer” (in words) can’t. It drops us into the deeper, broader, inner world of senses, imagination, and emotions that often drives the outer world of facts, understanding, and judgment.
Jon Pearson presents Drawing Breakthrough Insights: Tapping the genius of visual thinking at Mindcamp 2013.