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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Do You Think Creative Visualization Works?

              Recently, as I was working on my novel for NaNo, I began to take special note of how much I was visualizing the story in my mind. This is not a new approach for me by any means--it's my normal modus operandi.  However, I started paying closer attention to the process of visualization as it applies to writing.  I discussed this in my blog entry for yesterday.

              Then, this past weekend as I was working on finishing my novel Time Light, I began visualizing the novel having already been published and achieving success.  I could see myself at hugely attended book signings and author events.  And there was my book in the top ten of the New York Times bestseller list.  It was all there vividly in my imagination.  What if I were to apply the principles of creative visualization?  Would it all happen as I saw it in my mind?

               To clarify what creative visualization is, let me summarize it for those of you who may not be familiar with it.   Creative visualization is a discipline which involves seeing in your mind's eye that which you want to attain in your life.  The visualizer focuses on the goal, imagines every detail about what it would be like to attain that goal, and meditates or even prays about attaining the goal until eventually the efforts of the mind make it happen.  This type of visualization is often associated with spiritual or mystical powers that help bring the attainment of the goal to fruition.  This is the dime store version of creative visualization as I understand it.  It is undoubtedly more complex than that but this gives us a place to start.

               Creative visualization is a vital component to several religions, New Age movements, and prosperity success programs.  Many self-help books promote this technique to help achieve goals.  It is a practice that does make sense to me, but not in any spiritual or mystical sense.  If goals are achieved I think it is more attributed to the logical outcome of applying the creative visualization techniques rather than the intercession by some higher power. 

               This discipline of visualization is something that is more related to putting us "in the zone" rather than some higher realm controlling our destiny.  In other words, I see creative discipline as more of a mental rehearsal of something you want to do or a detailed internalized examination of where you want to be. 

            A good example was pointed out yesterday in a comment by Talli Roland.  She related how an athlete will use creative visualization to "practice" a skill without physically doing it.   The athlete will imagine whatever skill they are interested in perfecting, analyzing it and repeating it in their mind so that when they actually physically perform the act there should be a mental sense that improves the physical act.  The visualization in this case is totally functional and for the most part irrelated to anything of a spiritual nature.

          This example can likewise apply to getting a job or promotion, finding a romantic partner, or acquiring something that one wants.  A salesperson may mentally practice a sales pitch before meeting with a customer, imagining what barriers may be encountered and picturing closing the sale.  You may begin a process of visualizing finding a romantic partner and meditating and fixating on this until it happens--but it is highly unlikely that anything will happen unless you take action.   The visualization exercise does not cause the success, it merely prods the dreamer and facilitates the potential of success.

           The way I see it is that you can creatively visualize with the greatest intensity that you can muster, and nothing is likely to ever happen until you actually step forward and start taking action.  The visualization is a first step towards action, which may or may not lead to success.  Creative visualization is not a magic spell.

Do you think that creative visualization works?

             Do you ever consciously use creative visualization to attain goals?   Do you believe that creative visualization is connected to an element of spirituality or mystical power?    Have you visualized your success as an author (or whatever your field of interest is) and what have you seen?

           Stop by tomorrow when I will have a special post with a scheduled stop on Tamara Hart Heiner's book tour appearing on Tossing It Out.



  1. I am a great believer in self help books Lee, they helped me through a very difficult and sad time in my life, They are a great help though in the end yourself has a large part to play in the outcome, One has to believe in one's self to achieve goals in life.
    I do hope your book do get to the book signing stage. You have worked hard.
    Have a good day.

  2. I think it works, because if you can't see it now, you'll never have it.

  3. I think it works if you're actively taking part in making it become a reality. Like you said, you have to move toward it.

    A book won't become successful without rewrites and editing.

    I do this when I have to be in front of large crowds. I have a mild anxiety disorder and I turn red from my scalp down and can't breathe if I don't imagine things going well.

    I have to map out every step, every smile, every word, and so on.

    Yep, it's a powerful thing.

  4. yes, I have visualized my success, I've pictured myself dominating the planet as a omnipotent, powerful and untouchable mogul. Ooops... have I just revealed too much??? This isn't a public conversation, right Lee? :)))

  5. I think it works too. By seeing myself achieving my goals, I'm charged and more likely to work for them. The work is what moves us forward, but we have to have some sort of dream or visualization to chase after.

  6. I do believe in the process but I also believe in checks and balances. I think our visualizations are all attainable, so long as what we visualize is truly worth seeing.

    I just love your topic selections. You always find a way to make me think early in the morning. :D

    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  7. Great topic, I was thinking about this lately, when I did my Let Go post. I used a rope in my post that was from a creative visualization I had read about. I have done it, I think it puts you in a mindset. You still have to do the work, but it frames an outline for your mind. I think it is powerful stuff and have found it worked for me~

  8. I'm more agreeable to what you say about visualizing then taking action. Seeing ourselves achieving a goal makes us more apt to take the steps needed to reach it than if we didn't see it happening first. It's great to talk about goal setting right before the new year.

  9. Great topic today, Lee. I sure do believe visualation works, as well as speaking the words out loud. I visulaize as I write, sometimes sketching scenes. I also visualize my books in bookstores and great reviews. I see people enjoying Breakthrough and recommending it to their friends. I also say similar things out loud (but not in public as people wll think I'm bonkers). As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Its in Proverbs somewhere.

  10. I always followed that practice when I wrote something fictional....
    I think it really helped...although come to think of it, I never actually finished much.

  11. Thank you for the mention! I'm a firm believer in visualisation. It worked for me as an athlete, and it works for me now! If you can picture yourself succeeding, you've already hurdled one of the biggest barriers: self doubt.

  12. Yvonne -- I too enjoy self-help books that offer solid practical advice. Thank you for your encouragement.

    Alex -- It helps when you know where you're going.

    Gautami -- Thanks for stopping by!

    Words Crafter -- I believe you are correct. The right kind of visualization goes hand in hand with self-confidence.

    Dezmond -- Uh oh, I have visualized the same scenario for myself. In the end it will surely some to an epic cinematic Hollywood-style battle between you and I for control of the universe. Let's see-- who will the director be?

    Charity -- Dreaming of success is better than dreaming of failure.

    Jules -- Balance and discernment are very important in achieving goals. Glad you are here to contribute your thoughts.

    Ella -- You are correct. It's good to have some kind of plan in place.

    Carol-- Yeah, you make a good point about the new year--time for resolutions and plans for the future. I didn't really think about that aspect when I started writing this post.

    Stephen -- Yes, it's probably good to be discreet about what you verbalize. Excellent quote from Proverbs!

    Andrew --Hmmm, maybe you lacked vision?

  13. Talli - Exactly! If you don't see yourself as confident and assured, you will tend to wallow in self-doubt. Thanks for providing me that example of athletes.

  14. Great post! I totally believe in creative visualization and think that it definitely works! I read "The Science of Getting Rich" by Wallace Wattles" many years ago, in college and it blew my mind. We are what we think and our thoughts create our realities.

  15. Thinking upon this subject, here is a verse I really like.

    "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." MARK 11: 24 (KING JAMES VERSION)

  16. I think what is hard is imagining the work it will take to achieve your goals. Most people visualize the NY times bs list coming out or the signings, but not many people visualize the night before a deadline at 2:30 on your ninth cup of crappy coffee hitting your laptop with your fist as you curse. Sure it's for obvious reasons we visualize the success over effort, but I think that is often the breakdown in visualization for writers.

  17. I think it works, up to a point. There's no way you can wish yourself into being someone else, or having new circumstances, but I think it can help people to realize their goals.

  18. Hi Lee .. I'm sure it works .. most of us don't have the will to go to that level .. but again it doesn't say it can not be done for us as generalists either .. cheers Hilary

  19. For physical or performance tasts, it's been shown to work--particularly tasks that aren't particularly repetitive--dance routines, speeches...

    It doesn't account (at all) for external factors, but CAN account for things that influence those (charisma, confidence) so I can see it being helpful for a book tour (though no matter HOW many times I visualize Johnny Depp sweeping my off my feet, I have my doubts about it really happening). Seeing yourself smiling and talking animatedly with readers though? Absolutely. I need to do more of this with stuff I need to physically work on (eating right mostly).

    I've never tried it with writing (at least not intentionally) though there is probably something to dreams and the ideas that come when I am exercising that isn't unrelated. I think it is probably better for DOING (people who have a hard time making themselves sit to write) than for finding the words for the story, but that is entirely hunch.

  20. I think creative visualization could definitely work! I'm going to think about it.

    I'm so glad you came over and signed up as a follower on my blog. You used to follow me and I you; then I got a blogger glitch and had to do a new blog. I lost all followers. I've been working to get back the ones that I want, but it's easy to omit some. I'm so glad I'm back here because I want to read your book when it's out.
    Ann Best, Long Journey Home

  21. Great post, Lee. I have read a lot about this subject and it's something I definitely believe in. Envisioning something you want to happen makes it all the more attainable.

    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes that I've used on my blog:

    If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.
    - William Arthur Ward

  22. I think you have to visualize to some extent to do and act. Otherwise, why would we act? Hmmm, we could get really existential with this ... I will go jot it down in my idea book. Thanks. :)

  23. Marguerite-- I can't believe you read that book. Maybe I need to find a copy and read it.

    Lon - That is another great Bible verse that offers a lot of encouragement.

    Chris -- You are correct. If one is visualizing completely, they would be experiencing good and bad. Perhaps mainly concentrating on the good makes the goal seem more desirable.

    Golden Eagle -- I agree with that.

    Hilary -- There are many levels one can take visualization and there can be much effort involved in the highest levels.

    Hart -- It would be a good idea to focus one's visualization on positives in order to get into the right mood for getting something done.

    Ann -- Glad we got reconnected.

    Optimist -- That's an excellent quote.

    M.Pax -- I also think that we do visaulize most things that we do to some extent. I guess it's partly what planning is.

  24. I am a carpenter and when I get a brief the first thing I do is create a drawing from my understanding of what is required. This process allows me to go through each step to achieve an acceptable end result. If this isn't creative visualization then I don't know what is. Yes we do think in pictures. To me writing is the art of describing the pictures I see in my mind's eye in such a way that others can get a glimpse of my own thoughts. Goal setting is the art of establishing way markers on the journey to our final outcome.
    An interesting post, very thought provoking.
    God bless you my friend and in the words of Jesus "As you have believed so be it."

  25. I really like how you explained how Creative Visualization is defined differently usually according to one's believes, like New Age. I once followed the new age movement aand now back to my Christian roots. I believe prayer can also be visualization by being, feeling all of God's promises. I don't always succeed at this, negativity and self doubt getting in the way. Great post!

  26. I used to use this all the time when I was gearing up for a performance on the piano. To visualize my fingers striking the correct keys worked wonders in getting rid of long practiced errors when I couldn't get near a piano. Strangely, this is something I don't do in my writing or, if I do, I don't really think of it as such. Ex: I don't visualize me writing, but I *do* picture the scene of the book, toss words around in my head, etc, before writing things down.

    Good and thoughtful post, Lee. Thanks!

  27. Geoff -- yours is an excellent illustration.

    Lynn -- The difference I guess has to do with where the believer thinks the power comes from: does it come from God or from within the energies of one's own mind. I believe you are right about prayer and how we can be a hindrance to our prayers being answered.

    Kimberly --- Visualizing an action is like practice in some cases and like mental conditioning in others.


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