John-Paul Flintoff




How Sketching Improves Your Writing

Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see
— Edgar Degas

One of the great difficulties of storytelling is to visualise a place thoroughly, and the movement of people within it.

Storytellers can get stuck in a frozen moment, with the story going nowhere. Drawing, which in its finished state is static, can paradoxically help to create movement – but it is not the finished drawing that matters, it is the process.

Laura C is working on a memoir, built around her father’s cookery books.

Working with Laura yesterday, we started with an empty floor plan of the house she is writing about. Sketching together online, not least because we are on different continents, we gradually embellished the floor plan.

Over 30 minutes, Laura remembered all kinds of things that had happened in her childhood home and I sketched while we talked (Laura sketched a little too). I also wrote down a few of the phrases she used.

You can watch the whole thing, here, and scroll down to see the “finished” image.



I highly recommend that you do this exercise. It works much better if you draw with someone else, because a lot of the benefit comes from your conversation.


Posted: August 11, 2020

Keywords: drawing, memoir




John-Paul Flintoff headshot, with Yours Truly written across it John-Paul Flintoff is author of six books, in 16 languages, including How To Change The World and A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech. He worked for 15 years as writer and associate editor on the Financial Times, the Sunday Times and other papers and magazines.


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