Today, I’d like to explore how the act of drawing can be an invaluable process in shaping our stories and resolving issues within them.
I first became aware of the benefits of drawing back in the mid-90s while studying an Open University module about Mathematical Classrooms. Within the pages of the dense reader on educational research and number cruching, I came across a story from the 19th Century in which university student Harold Scudder is given a task by Professor Louis Agassiz to….(find the short account I read and later adapted into a play by clicking here.)
OR ( for those of you who would prefer the ‘skinny’ of the story…)
The Professor sets student Harold Scudder the task of examining a dead fish to discover what makes the species unique from other fish. But there’s a catch: Scudder must achieve this feat without using a magnifying glass or microscope.
Initially, Scudder is excited by the task but soon ends up hating the fish because of his failure to progress and its rancid smell which results in his interest fading. Worse still, because the Professor goes days without checking in on him, Scudder is forced to persevere with a task that is loathsome to him. (Hopefully, we see the correlation with the writer’s dilemma when things just aren’t working).
Anyway, one day – bored out of his mind – Scudder has an idea and decides to draw the fish and is soon enthralled by all the new things he discovers. No longer is he bothered by the fish’s smell or clock watching until the Professor’s return. Indeed, when Professor Agassiz does arrive, he catches Scudder by surprise with the words:
‘That is right…a pencil is one of the best of eyes”
But what has this to do with writers and screenplays?
Well, it means that when we find ourselves stuck or struggling to structure our story, it’s very likely that drawing it in pictures unclutters the mental log jam we are experiencing. I have found this to be true and often use this method when plotting out each act of a screenplay or creating a storyboard for a short film, etc.
All of which means, next time the muse removes itself from you and your project, remember ‘a pencil is one of the best of eyes!’
Now get drawing!