How Drawing Helps Me Write

Create, produce, problem solve…

I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous blog posts that I enjoy graphic design and use it during the development of my writing. It doesn’t just help illustrate the ideas I have in my head for others to enjoy, it has a very practical use. When I am struggling with a section of writing and need a time out to think, I use drawing as one way to clear my mind. I like it because it makes me feel I am continuing to be productive and creating something I can use to promote my brand while I am solving writing problems.

I’ll use an example from today. I am working on a horror/paranormal story called The Head from Antiqam. It’s set in the 1930s, in Cairo, Egypt and is based around the trade in antiquities. I’d developed my characters and set the scene, and I knew that a particular mummified head being shown to a group of prospective buyers was rumoured to have some form of ethereal power (no, not a curse). I needed something special to go along with my head, something worthy of creating rumours, so I decided to have a hunt about and start drawing.

I settled on drawing an amulet. The trade in ancient Egyptian amulets was massive in the early 20th Century because they were easy to move, and sometimes made of a semi-precious material…and they were easy to fake. Apparently feeding freshly made amulets and scarabs to geese is a good way of making them look old.

I wanted my amulet to be powerful, to essentially hold sway over life and death. I did a Google search on ancient Egyptian amulets and scrolled through. My initial thought was I needed an ankh with a djed column, but then, nestled amid the multitude of scarabs and plain ankhs I found it.

ankhdjedwasBMcreditIt is an amulet comprising a djed column, and ankh and a was sceptre. Together, these items mean endurance, life, and dominion. The little figure at the top adds time to that equation, millions of years in fact. All these items are certainly worthy of stimulating some form of rumour if I jazzed it up a little. Enduring life and millions of years of dominion sound pretty much like an ethereal power to me.

This particular example is made of a composite material and moulded, not carved. It’s on display at the British Museum. You can find out more about this particular amulet from the museum website. I thought it especially apt because my story character is in Egypt to purchase material specifically for the British Museum and it is set only a few years after this real object was bought by the British Museum from Lord Kitchener’s collection. I had no idea of that when I initially spotted it during my web search – synchronicity people, it is real.

So I got to work redrawing and sprucing the thing up in Inkscape. I added a bit of archaeological flare with section cuts and a scale. All up it took me about four hours from start to finish. Instead of moulded, I decided mine had to be carved from lapis lazuli (a semi-precious stone), and inlaid with garnet and gold, all of which were well known to the Egyptians. It would be sure to fetch a pretty penny on the antiquities market.


Why did this drawing help me with my writing? It gave my subconscious four hours to mull over my plot. I am no longer stuck. The amulet was found jammed into the mouth and part way down the throat of the mummified head by the buyer (my character), and all hell breaks loose after she removes it for closer inspection. Now back to Scrivener!

Do you have other creative things you do while thinking? Let us know in the comments below.

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