Improve Your Writing by Knowing Your Learning Style

Sorry about the quality. These guys are hard to get on camera.
Sorry about the quality. These guys are hard to get on camera.

Dear Internet, I am not an auditory learner. Nope, nope, nope. It was kind of a big surprise, actually.

You see, some theories purport that people tend to learn in particular ways better than others. Some theories divide learning into many different styles, but the simplest and most common deals with three different ways to learn and thus three categories of learners: visual learners (learn by seeing), auditory learners (learn by hearing), and kinesthetic/tactile learners (learn by feeling/doing). While everyone spans all three of these styles (barring disability), people tend to lean toward one or two. If you’re curious about your own learning, take a test.

Apparently, I am pretty evenly split between visual and kinesthetic learning, but not so much auditory, the style I thought I would lean toward heavily. After all, I am a writer, I deal in words as a profession. Yet after a few moments, it all made sense.

No wonder other people could rattle off dozens of songs for a writing playlist, perfectly tailored to the tone of each scene or mood of each character, while I couldn’t name a dozen songs, period. Oh, I know a dozen songs. More than that. They’re somewhere in my brain, but I couldn’t name them on the spot.

No wonder I could visualize scenes perfectly, but I had no idea how they should sound. As the job of a writer is to evoke sensory details in the readers, I had a big, fat gap my skills. If you took the test, you’ve probably found your own sensory gap, be it big or small.

So how did I address this gap? Partially a conscious effort while editing, but recently some learning tools landed on my doorstep. Actually, they landed on my balcony. And they did literally land there, as they are Carolina wrens.
They made a nest out there and had some babies, so they’re quite noisy. (Sorry, no baby wren pictures. They still have not emerged from their dome-shaped nest, but I can hear them out there.)

My husband and I didn’t know what they were when they first arrived, so our first task was identifying the species. From there, I began identifying other neighborhood birds. Size, shape, and color are all a part of that, but a big part of identifying songbirds is distinguishing their song. Is that sound in the distance the “teakettle-teakettle-teakettle” of a Carolina wren or the “cheer-cheer up” of a robin? I’m no expert, but just by walking outside or leaving my window open and listening, I’m focusing on that weak sense in an enjoyable way.

Now, bird song isn’t going to be appropriate for many scenes, but I can take the activity, the new focus on listening to other environments. I can close my eyes and stay still (minimizing those overwhelming visual and kinesthetic senses) and just listen, now the wrens have taught me to do it. The rain drops falling on the car, are they smacking it or slapping it? Maybe thwacking? There are so many great sound verbs: clink, clang, chirp, chirrup, flop, thud, thunder, clatter… you get the picture.

So here’s your challenge: Find your sensory weakness and focus on it. See if there’s anything in your life, like wrens, that can help you start in a fun way. Look for verbs to help you do it. You’ll be shocked by what you can see or feel or hear with a little focus.

P.S.: To learn more about Carolina wrens and hear their song, check out All about Birds.

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