How are you all?
OK, go with me on this one… If I asked you to close your eyes and picture a green snail riding on the back of a purple donkey that happens to be eating a large piece of buttered toast… apart from thinking ‘Thalamus may well have lost the plot…’ what else is happening in your mind?
Can you actually see the above scene? Is it a clear picture? A photograph? A drawing? Coloured or black and white? Merely shapes or possibly a movie where you can see the donkey’s surroundings and the butter dripping from the toast…?
Or perhaps, like me (and several others), you see…. Nothing… Black… not even the tumbleweed drifting by –if so, you may well have aphantasia, the condition where your ‘mind’s eye’ is essentially blind.
For years I thought that ‘picture in your mind’s eye’… was just something that people said in the same way that you might say; ‘think about such and such’, but no, I was genuinely intrigued to learn that the majority of folk do actually see (in varying degrees) actual pictures in their minds!!
Armed with this new discovery about my brain it really helped me to understand why I struggled with certain things such as doing maths in my head, directions, face recognition etc. It also explains why I’m a bit ‘goldfish’ when it comes to visiting places…
Me: “Ooooh, this is nice… not been here before…!”
My camera: (stuffed with several photos depicting the exact same scene, taken on every past visit) Rolls eyes.
Discovering that aphantasia was a thing and that I had it was initially shocking to me but I’ve learnt to view it as just a different way of thinking. When it comes to illustrating and writing, even though I might have an idea of what I want to say or draw, it isn’t until the pen is actually on the paper that the picture or story unfolds and when it does it often takes me by surprise! I’m learning to enjoy the journey and more importantly, to trust the process.
If you’ve recently discovered that you too have aphantasia, then welcome to the club – you’re in good creative company, Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and Glen Keane, Oscar winning Disney animator, both manage considerably well without a mind’s eye!!
(If I can do half as well….Ha - Imagine that!!)
I’d love to hear about your ability to visualise (or not) and how that affects your creative process or your day to day life in general! As always, do feel free to share.
With a farewell puff on my imaginary pipe and an accompanying nod of the head, till next time, dear Planksters!