Posted On April 6, 2011 by Print This Post

Make Your Workspace Work for You with Jeanne Adams

At the end of 2010, I took a fabulous class with Jeanne Adams on how to create a writer’s workspace that works for each individual writer. I had moved into a rental house a few months earlier, and the owner’s furniture was still in the house! So I was working at someone else’s desk, sitting in someone else’s chair, eating someone else’s porridge–oops, wrong story :).

After taking Jeanne’s class, I gave myself a budget to re-do my office because environment is critical when you spend this much time in one room. Now, I’m proud to say I have two bookcases, a filing rack, a cabinet with drawers, a kickin’ desk and a chair that’s just right. Yes, I know some of you are saying: “But Kels, I don’t have the cash to re-do my space.” Well, Jeanne has plenty of ideas that allow you to work with what you have. My problem was I had nothing, and it wasn’t healthy for my sanity. And my husband values my sanity more than he values our money.

So let me get out of the way, and let Jeanne get to it. Welcome, Jeanne!

Making your writing space WORK for you! Or…using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic clues to make you a better writer!

Hello to everyone at Romance University!

photo by Qtest

Have you ever sat down at your desk, or the table where you write, or in the fluffy chair with your laptop, trying to get some pages written and you just can’t?

What about those of you who have an actual office? You’d think if you actually had a quiet space you’d get something done, right? No?

Sometimes, even with the best equipment, and seemingly the best space, we still can’t write. Now, it could be that you don’t like the story, or you’re “dry gulch city” on ideas this week, but it could be something more, something you’ve never considered before.



photo with permission

It could be WHERE you’re trying to write. I hear you scoffing. Can’t a good writer write anywhere, you ask? No, or if they can, they will still write better in some places than they do in others.

Why? Well, thank you for asking!

Everyone takes in information in different ways. Some prefer to learn visually – through pictures, colors, sights, etc. Other prefer to take information in auditorily – these people love a good seminar, lecture or book on tape. Still others are kinesthetic, they like to learn on the job – actively doing whatever task needs learning and learning it as they go. If you’re a really strong visual learner and the environment is stark, unwelcoming and lacks any visual interest, you’ll have a hard time writing. If you’re auditory, and there’s either no noise or so much noise you can’t think, you won’t be able to write. Writing at Starbucks is hell for you. If you’re kinesthetic and it’s too hot, or too cold, or you’re hungry, your back hurts or the chair is too hard, you’re going to have one heck of a time getting that manuscript done.

And again you ask, why? Well, because optimal working environments differ for people depending on the way in which they take in information. This is important for you as a writer, and it’s very important in character development too, so read on!

photo by mm-pll

Let’s use the example of making a sandwich. If you’re a visual, you could probably watch someone make that sandwich and then remember, by visual clues, how to make the sandwich yourself. You see the cook make it: bottom bun, mayo, meat, lettuce, tomato, special sauce, bun, and visually you remember the order and sequence and you can repeat it. But if they don’t show you, only tell you, you’ll have a hard time remembering unless you write it down. Why? Because if you’re visual, and you just hear it, you won’t remember it. If you write the order and sequence down, you can SEE it, and you’ll be able to repeat it. You still may be able to do it from a description, just like you may still be able to write in a sterile, non-visual environment, but you won’t do it well, easily or happily.

A very strong visual loves things in order, neat and tidy, things in their place, lined up, precise. They do well with color and texture, but they want it to be neatly meshed, nothing slightly off or different tones, because that’s a distraction, a discordant visual note, and it’ll bug them. They don’t usually have clutter, but they have color and texture and lots of it. This is the woman who dresses with precision and/or high fashion, with every hair in place, the nails and makeup perfect; this is the man with his tie precisely knotted, the suit snugly tailored and the shoes shined to a mirrored perfection. A visual learner is the one who, after a movie is over, will say, “I wonder if that outdoor love scene in the middle of the movie was shot in the Alps or the Grand Tetons. You know, I think it might be the Tetons, because it was fall and there were aspens…” An auditory or kinesthetic will be thinking, “There were mountains in that scene? Really?” Visuals see the forest AND the trees. Where’s Waldo was made for the visual learner.

photo by mpiehl



If you’re auditory in the sandwich example, you might watch the process, but you’ll be listening to the cook as s/he says, “okay, first ye’ get yer bun, then the mayo gets slapped on there to keep everything moist, then the meat…” There’s a rhythm to things, even sandwich making, that creates a mental/auditory pattern, or a sound cue. And if you’re trying to learn and are focused, you’ll remember everything that cook says where a visual won’t, they’ll remember the colors, or the textures, but won’t remember the words. (Auditories are the ones who shout out in theatres a lot. In Jaws, you know the shark is coming when you hear that two-note duuuuh-duh. An auditory is the one going, “GET OUT OF THE WATER YOU IDIOT!” Grins. The visual or kinesthetic may never notice the soundtrack.) Just like the example in the visual, if you’re auditory and had to make the sandwich just from watching the cook do it, without any words, you’d have a hard time. If you’re auditory, your brain best makes sense of the world through sound. Many auditories in this situation would be holding a mental monologue and miss the visual cues for the next step. “Why is s/he putting mayo on the bottom, that doesn’t make sense. Wait, what did he just do? Crap, I missed that step…” Auditories are the people who can recite the grocery list twice, and never miss an item. Of course, they’re also talking to themselves in the grocery store too, so everyone thinks they’re looney, but they don’t forget the mayo. Visuals and kinesthetics need the written list, or they’ll forget the mayo every time.

For a kinesthetic – that on the job learner – you want your hands in the dough, making the bread, making the sandwich instead of being told how, or watching someone make the sandwich. This is the person who can watch it, and hear it described, but won’t be able to re-create that sandwich unless they actually DO it as they hear/see the instructions. It only makes sense if they’re physically following along AS its being done. This is the dancer who can learn a new routine faster than lightning if they are stepping it as its being called. They have body/muscle memory par excellance. These are the sports heroes, the coaches, the gal or guy who loves to hug everyone. They get your measure with a handshake. They love sex, too. In the movie theatre, they’re the ones braced for the explosion, gasping as the body hits the water (because they can imagine how cold it is), or leaning into the turns as the hero escapes on a motorcycle. Kinesthetics are the ones in the clothing store touching the nubby sweater, running their hand over the smooth weave of a fabric or leather, sniffing the air in the bakery. They’re all about how sensation hits the body, any sensation. Kinesthetics often think they’re auditory because they love music and love to dance. “But I love music, and songs and I learn songs fast.” But they can’t do it JUST from the words. Their bodies are in constant motion, foot-tapping, finger tapping, pencil tapping. My kinesthetic son can learn spelling words by pounding up and down the stairs as he spells because his body is in motion and isn’t distracting his mind by constantly WANTING to move. He’s a champion speller. He’s also a star athlete.

So how does this apply to your writing space? Just think about it, if you’re kinesthetic and the chair is hard, and there’s nothing to pick up and toss from hand to hand as you think, nothing to eat or drink (physical sensations), and you’re cold as can be because the AC is blowing down the back of your neck, you will have the hardest time ever concentrating on writing a single page. If you’re comfortable, have a snack, have a cushy chair or seat, are in comfortable clothes, it’s more likely you’ll pour out the pages. You can work in clutter because it’s textural and familiar.


If you’re auditory, you’ll probably want a clearer desk space, something calmer. Depending on your secondary mode (I’ll get to that in a minute) you’ll want soft, non-distracting music, or no music at all, just the voices in your head. You’ll have a lot of sound in your writing – things will shriek, squeal, bang, splat and buzz. The temp will need to be moderate, even a little cool and you could probably care less if your chair was a kitchen chair or a comfy chair as long as the light is good, the desk is clear and you have quiet time to write.



If you’re visual, you’ll need a neat, if colorful workspace, music may or may not be important to you, but you won’t want clutter at all, because you’ll keep looking at it thinking, “I have to deal with that” rather than writing. You’ll want inspiration on the walls or desktop, but nothing excessive. And you may change it depending on which book you’re working on.

Looking at your workspace, can you tell which you are? What about your favorite room in the house, or spot in the office?

You may have two of the three modalities – visual, auditory, or kinesthetic – which run closely together. You may be strongly visual, with a kinesthetic back up. Your writing will have a lot of colorful descriptions and a lot of action, even if it’s not an adventure. There will be a lot of physical humor or activity in your stories. If you’re auditory kinesthetic, the sounds will be physical sounds like grunts, groans, or screams, you’ll focus on how things sound and feel first, then how they look.

Or you may be visual auditory, where things make sounds, or look a certain way, but you never describe how things feel. Editors or contest judges may tell you that you need more intensity, or action, but you think you have it – stuff blows up, for heaven’s sake! – but they’re not getting it. That’s because you’ve told it, and shown it, but you’ve not said how it FEELS.

So what to do with all this? Based on these descriptions you probably already know what mode you best use. So what then? You can change your space to suit your modality! Warm up the room, add more light, get a cushion for that chair, clear the clutter, even if it’s just moving it off the table and out of line-of-sight during your precious writing time. Put on some music, or go to the library where it’s really quiet. Put on a sweater, take the sweater off, get a snack, light a candle. Do things that feed your mode and you’ll find you get more our of the writing time you have while in your writing space.

If you’re still not sure what your modality is, send me an email (Jeanne@Jeanne,  I can send you a copy of a short assessment to see if you’re Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic, then you can see what the secondary is. Based on the examples, then, you can do things to alter your space and make it work for YOU!

Hopefully this helps a bit to get those pages flowing and you moving forward with your writing! I’m happy to answer any questions for you about modalities, about design for your office to make it more your mode and/or about how to make this work or work against your characters! Let’s go!


Which are you RU crew–visual, auditory or kinesthetic? How do you think that impacts your workspace now? How would you like to improve your workspace?

Be sure to pop in Friday when professor Sarah Frantz talks about romance in academia.


Jeanne Adams lives in Washington, DC and along with being a consultant and mom, she writes Romantic Suspense for Kensington. Her latest book, Deadly Little Secrets, garnered 4 ½ Stars and a TOP PICK rating from Romantic Times and was featured in the April 2011 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. Her next book, Deadly Little Lies is out Sept, 2011.

Jeanne is also a multi-published non-fiction writer, writing for Llewellyn Publishing, and a marketing consultant with credits in magazines such as Forbes and Nature.

She works with writers and homeowners to make their offices work more efficiently and effectively using the principles of design, light and space planning. (As well as good organization!) She has a design degree as well as a landscaping certification and has worked in design in the Washington, DC area for nearly a decade.

You can find Jeanne at: or

Similar Posts:

Share Button

Anatomy of the Mind


78 Responses to “Make Your Workspace Work for You with Jeanne Adams”

  1. Hi Jeanne,

    Thank you for joining us at RU! From your description, I might be a combination of kinesthetic and visual, but probably more visual. I like to have certain reference books within reach, so I can research a fact right away (kinesthetic?).

    Clutter definitely bugs me, however, I can’t seem to stop it. I’ll clean off my desk and, a week later, I have piles again. They do draw my attention over and over, though. Post-its decorate my computer screen and wall–reminders of what my core story is, the elements of suspense, my 2011 goals, etc. All things that keep me inspired at a glance, but also clutter my area.

    My colorfully painted walls are decorated and every my desk and bookshelves have trinkets lining them. My office is homey, but a bugger to dust! 🙂

    Thanks again,

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | April 6, 2011, 4:39 am
    • Hi Tracey! Thank you to you and Kelsey, et al, for having me at Romance University today.

      It sounds (hahah) to me like you’re a Visual Kinesthetic. I’m that way too. You’re going to be at war with yourself sometimes because you LOVE things to be orderly for your visual side, yet you need the visual stimulation of the post it notes, goals, trinkets, and color. Because you’re also a strong K, you like comfort and that part of you finds the clutter comforting. There’s always something to do, and always another task to keep you busy and the piles represent that – you’ll never be inactive, they remind you. Grins. You’re Visual mode however would LOVE, just sometimes, for the desk to be clear, dusted and pristine, the piles sorted and put away. So sometimes you really have to DO it, just to keep that part of you happy. You can always reassure the inner Kinesthetic that the piles will return….Grins.

      One thing I do, to keep this set of modes balanced is to set a day (or two) where I clean and clear everything. Then when I’m on deadline and my visual side is getting annoyed with the sheer volume of paper on my desk, I promise it that “On Sunday next we’re cleanin’ up. Promise!” Grins.

      It’s schizophrenic, but it works for me. Hahaha!

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:19 am
  2. Hi Jeanne! Loved this post. Fascinating! I’m definitely Kinesthetic. I don’t like a lot of clutter, but my desk does have piles (and piles) that I try to keep neat.Overall, I like to know where things are and if I do, it’s okay that something is sitting on the pile on the right. As long as I can find it, I’m okay. When I start to worry where something is, I know I have to do some cleanup.


    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | April 6, 2011, 5:47 am
    • Hi Adrienne! Thanks for posting! It does sound more kinesthetic. And like a true K, you can FIND what you need. High Visuals or Auditories do NOT understand this. They think , HOW could you possibly find ANYTHING in there? But you know right where it is. I call it the pile-and-bulldoze filing system. I can locate anything within five minutes in my office, despite the way it looks. Grins. If the clutter does bother you occasionally, I’d bet your secondary mode is visual. A high auditory just cannot have the clutter, it makes them insane and makes it impossible to think if there’s too much clutter. Al Gore’s office (pictured above) would drive an auditory bat-crap-crazy.

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:23 am
      • “And like a true K, you can FIND what you need. High Visuals or Auditories do NOT understand this. They think , HOW could you possibly find ANYTHING in there? But you know right where it is. I call it the pile-and-bulldoze filing system.”

        Love it! And so true!

        Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 6, 2011, 3:19 pm
  3. Jeanne –

    I loved your class, and I think it’s one that many writers would think: “Why should I take that class instead of one on craft?” And I’ll answer that :). Because, my dear writers, you want to be productive, right? And happy? Well, if changing your work environment can help you do that, why wouldn’t you want to find out how to optimize your space to make you a better and more productive writer?

    I’m a kinesthetic, with a visual back-up, I think :). My husband thinks it’s a riot when I touch things in stores. And yes, I have gotten into trouble more than once because I touched something in a museum. Don’t they know I can’t experience art unless I touch it?? I also lift my nose and sniff like a dog when there’s a yummy smell in the air. And to learn something without doing it? Um, my pre-Cal teacher thought I was insane in high school because I had to “be the vector.” 🙂

    I do keep piles around, although I’m a little better than I used to be. Because I’m also visual, I try to straighten up once a day, and have taught myself that if I’ll take five minutes to do so, I’ll be more productive if for no other reason than my hands can find what they need quickly.

    Jeanne – will you teach your class again soon? If so, where can people go for more info?

    Thanks so much for being here!

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | April 6, 2011, 6:56 am
    • Hi Kelsey! Thank you so much for your lovely praise of the class and for inviting me here. It does make a difference once you know, doesn’t it? You never quite look at a space the same way, just like once you’ve edited a mss or judged for a contest, you really get what an editor goes through. Grins.

      There’s more information on my website about the class, and I’m always up for teaching at chapters or regional conferences, since I’m an extrovert and love an audience. Grins. I have a number of classes I teach so I’m also cool to come do a whole day for a group – environment in the morning, body disposal in the afternoon! Hahah!

      You’ve hit on a great solution for a visual kinesthetic or K/V about the clutter, which is to straighten a bit each day, or as I mentioned to Adrienne, set a day when you KNOW you will clean up, so that visual side can rest, knowing it gets it’s day for clean desk and clear space and “pretty” looks.

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:27 am
  4. Morning Jeanne!

    I’m thinking since I want to touch the guy in the football pads, I must be kinesthetic. =) does that count? lol….

    I feel like a combination of all three, but the movie theater example points to me being kinesthetic. I screamed and ducked in Jaws, chewed my fingernails in Face Off and tried to help Bruce Willis drive the semi in Die Hard 4. =)

    My workspace is cluttered, but I hate noise, don’t want the TV on, no music! Even the cats can quit meowing for a bit! and I’m certainly not the visual person with every hair in…

    I’ll be one of those sending you an email….I’m debating on setting up my own working space – this would help me decide how to set it up!



    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 6, 2011, 7:20 am
    • Morning, Carrie! Let me just say that we ALL become kinesthetic when that guy with the football pads shows up! Hahah! Actually it brings up a good point that we do all operate with every mode – visual, auditory and kinesthetic – but we prefer one or one with a back up.

      That said, it’s important to know that writers learn to effectively employ all three. Often a writer or a journalist will test very high on all three because we HAVE to use all the senses in writing to tell the story. And whether we do it deliberately or not, some characters are just huggy-touchy-feely and some are more every-hair-in-place-don’t-muss-me-up. It’s their nature – just like being Kinesthetic/Visual is my nature, but I’m highly auditory too.

      I’d say from your description you’re highly kinesthetic and the action in your mind can be very vivid and you don’t want the TV distracting you with it’s shapes and colors and sounds, nor do you want the toe-tapping distraction of the iPod or radio. You want it to be YOUR action, from YOUR head, not from NCIS. Grins.

      You may already know this in your writing, but you’ve given me a great opening to say that for each mode you have to be careful not to have your characters be too much “like you.” In other words, for a K, be careful that you don’t make every one of your characters huggy-touchy-feely rather than other modes. Also, watch for the overuse of those kind of kinesthetic words – it feels right, feeling the vibration rather than hearing the sound, knowing in the gut instead of seeing the evidence. (You can tell I write RS, right?)


      When you take the assessment, even if they’re all close in numeric value, usually one outweighs the others and you can often tell your preferences.

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:35 am
    • No, Carrie – that’s just itchy fingers :D.

      I can totally see you as a K or V, even though I’ve…umm…never actually seen you.


      Posted by KelseyBrowning | April 6, 2011, 10:53 am
  5. *waves madly* Hi Jeanne! Thanks for a great blog!

    This side of Jeanne is new to me – I’m more familiar with the dead people/blowing things up side of her. She is definitely multi-faceted!

    I’m very glad my webcam isn’t on so no one can see my workspace, which looks like a bomb went off in a paper factory. I’ve got post-its stuck all over the place, a stack of work-related magazines I fully intend to read before the end of the decade, a cup of quickly-cooling tea (a safe distance from the keyboard) and lots of tschotschkes to inspire me – a golden rooster, several pairs of little ruby slippers, a stone engraved with the word “Persevere” – you get the idea.

    Safe to say, it doesn’t look like a Pottery Barn ad.

    On the other hand, my living room office has a nice big window where, right now, I can see a golden forsythia as well a magnolia, peach and pear tree in bloom. The house is quiet so I can concentrate and I’m snuggled in a butt-ugly (but cozy) sweater. A rabbit puppet disguised as a pirate is keeping an eye on me as I work. It’s not an attractive workspace, but I kind of like it.

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 6, 2011, 7:54 am
    • *waves madly back!* Hi Becke! So lovely of you to drop in! :> I’d peg you as a kinesthetic. A lot of gardeners are because they MUST have their hands in the dirt and they really don’t mind the sticky mud, the worms, the mulch, peat or potting soil. A visual loves the result of gardening – beautiful beds, neatly mulched gardens – but will pay someone to do it, not do it themselves. Grins. An auditory will often be saying, “There were gardens? Really? I heard 27 different birds, but I didn’t see the flowers.” Grins.

      Just by your description of your office, and that you’re in an ‘ugly but comfy’ sweater, I’d know you were kinesthetic. It’s about warmth (in the gut sense), comfort, and texture for a K. And it doesn’t have to BE attractive if if doesn’t bother you. Had to LOL about the Pottery Barn ad. They look so nice, but I can’t imagine ever getting work done in any of those spaces. Ha! I’d bet that you’re very strongly K, but have learned to be V and A for your writing, and for your fantastic gardening skills.

      And BTW, if it works for you, don’t let anyone tell you to change it, “fix it” or do anything differently. :>

      One thing I will say though is that nearly every office I’ve ever helped a client “recreate” needs MORE LIGHT. Hie thee all to the store and get brighter bulbs. If only for your office. We all strain our eyes enough with the computer screens, iPads, Nooks, Kindles, etc, don’t make it worse by underlighting your space.

      I tell people to bring in 6 lamps (technically the lamp is the bulb and the fixture is the thing you put the bulb IN, but you don’t need to get techie, just grab a few lamps). Put them around the room and light ’em all up. Too bright? Take one away. Still too bright? Turn another off. Repeat until it feels right. And on this one even a high A will know when it’s right.

      You’ll be VERY suprised at how many lamps your eyes and mind actually like if they’re given the option. I’ll lay odds it will be AT LEAST one more lamp than you have in there right now.

      Sorry, didn’t mean to hijack this answer to talk about light! Hahah! See why I teach this as a class? There’s so much to know!

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:47 am
    • Okay, Becke – it’s gonna be Skype time soon. I want to see all the cool stuff you described!


      Posted by KelseyBrowning | April 6, 2011, 10:54 am
  6. P.S. I’m visual in many ways, but going by your description I’m a kinesthetic learner. Who knew?

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 6, 2011, 7:55 am
  7. Hi Jeanne,

    I’m kinesthetic. I don’t mind clutter and a little chaos.

    Mary Jo Burke

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | April 6, 2011, 8:19 am
    • Hi Mary Jo! It’s fun to learn about it isn’t it? And if you know that already, you can make your workspace work for you by making sure your chair is comfy and that you have a snack or something to roll under your feet (soccer balls or tennis balls work well) if you’re having trouble sitting still to work. It’s also good to keep a throw or blanket or sweater on your chair or in your workspace because Kinesthetics tend to get cold when they sit still and concentrate, then they have to get up and move around to get warm – you may be in the middle of a scene and not WANT to get up. Hence, the sweater. Grins.

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:52 am
      • LOL. Jeanne – I can’t write with my shoes on. And I do keep a pashmina on the back of my chair.

        I find that although I have some visual items around, I can totally ignore them, and then look up one day and think: “Oh wow, I forgot that was sitting in the window sill!”

        I have a bamboo plant that I was considering moving to the top of the bookcase, but I decided against it because I know it would die up there. Poor thing :).


        Posted by KelseyBrowning | April 6, 2011, 10:56 am
  8. This is fun! I’m a strong kinesthetic, with auditory as a secondary. I can read a sentence and “hear” it in my mind. When I click on a blog that has music and I’m trying to read the post, the music distracts me, even if I like it. And my desk is very cluttered.

    Posted by Edie Ramer | April 6, 2011, 8:53 am
    • Hi Edie! Sounds like you’ve pegged your modality quite well! And it is fun. It’s particularly fun to use it with characters and make them misunderstand one another because of their modalities….

      Character one – Auditory: What do you mean it felt right? That’s just stupid. Did you listen to all the facts? Did you hear what people were saying about her?

      Character two – Kinesthetic: *stubborn look on face* I don’t care what anyone says. I don’t judge people on hearsay. I go with the gut. I get the sense she’s a good person. She doesn’t grate on my nerves. I feel good when she’s around, so quit bugging me about her.

      Grins. Two different modes. They almost cannot understand one another because they’re operating on such different wave lengths. :>

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:57 am
    • Edie – thanks for dropping by today. I’m amazed by auditory people because my most used phrase after someone says something to me is: “Huh?” Drives my husband crazy :).

      I’m with you – I can’t stand sites with music!


      Posted by KelseyBrowning | April 6, 2011, 10:58 am
  9. Hey Jeanne! *waves madly*

    GREAT article!

    I never knew you were into this kind of analysis. I would have been poking you about it if I’d known! I don’t know what I am. I have some of all of it, and don’t know how to tell.

    I do know that I desperately need and want a space where I can go just to create, though. I have it planned out. But I don’t know for certain that I won’t end up right back on the kitchen table with my laptop. I’m a little worried about that. Sometimes the best laid plans don’t “feel” right when you get them done, yaknow? So this could be really helpful, because if I get teh space set up and it doesn’t feel right, now I’ll have some tools to help figure out why.

    Posted by Cassondra Murray | April 6, 2011, 11:57 am
    • *Waving madly back* Hey Cassondra! It is a worry when you plan out a space that once you GET it, it won’t actually work for you. You do also have to be willing to move things around sometimes. For instance, I’m moved my desk within my office three times. Why? Well the original “plan” didn’t take into account that the AC/Heat vent was right at my feet. I didn’t mind the heat, but the AC nearly froze me out. Shift the desk. On the second shift I hadn’t counted on the way the light fell on the computer screen. Third shift. Ahhhhh…..perfect! :>

      So, this is really a valid concern. I’ll send you the VAK Assessment and you can see which one strikes you most and we can chat about it. :>

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 2:27 pm
  10. Hiya RU gals! Looking forward to my visit in a couple of weeks!

    Waving madly at Jeanne. Jeanne, I can listen to you (I was going to say rabbit but that sounds a bit prejudicial) TALK about this stuff all day and then some. Fascinating. I remember the first time I was introduced to this, it was a huge lightbulb to me (Marion Lennox at an RWOz conference many years ago). It immediately made sense of a whole stack of things about my writing and me as a writer. I’m strongly auditory – I hear the characters before anything else, I tend to talk about something sounding right, I know I’m going well because I’m in the rhythm and I’m not if I’m OUT of the rhythm. I need to go back and deliberately key in those action/feeling cues because kinaesthetic is very much my last modality of choice. I write to music but can’t have words in the music because they interfere with the voices in my head (yeah, I know, we sound completely mad, don’t we?). I’ve got quite a strong visual secondary and I think that’s become stronger over the years but it’s still that auditory as number one. Also means my dialogue tends to come right early whereas nearly everything else needs major work after the first draft. Interesting how we’re all different, huh?

    Posted by Anna Campbell | April 6, 2011, 12:01 pm
    • ANNA!!! Hey there! *Waving madly back* So lovely to see (harhar) you here! Interesting that you do the voices first, and have to add in that kinesthetic sensory stuff. It bears out what I was saying though, so thank ou for that testimonial. Snork!! :> I really think that the combinations are what contribute to that elusive “voice” all the editors talk about. I also think its why some authors grab readers, and some don’t. Some authors (like YOU!) manage to make characters which appeal on all levels, so that every modality shows and you can like them and understand them no matter what mode you, the reader, may be. :>

      And you, m’dearie, have a very distinctive voice, which of course I adore! :>

      But it’s a cautionary, isn’t it, that if you don’t conciously go back and put in that other mode – kinesthetic in your case – a book can be brilliant, but editors won’t buy because it doesn’t get them where THEY live. :>

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 2:36 pm
      • Wow – this is really interesting! I suspect you hear your characters speak with a different accent than mine. I was thinking about this the other day when I saw a book trailer for a Southern (American) book I’d just read. The person voicing the character in the book trailer had a slow Southern drawl – too funny, even when I’m reading Southern stories, I “hear” them with Midwestern accents.

        I’m trying to decide how my characters and scenes first appear to me – I’d have to say visually. I do “hear” the dialogue, but then I’m used to reading dialogue on the page and I “hear” that in my head, too. I think that’s why I like it quiet when I’m reading and writing, although when I’m reading I’m pretty good at shutting everything out. When I’m writing I don’t like distractions – if music is playing I’ll stop and listen to it instead of paying attention to my work.

        Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 6, 2011, 3:15 pm
        • This is a good illustration, Becke, of the way in which writers adapt. We HAVE to get dialogue down and we know people actually speak to one another, so even those of us who are more kinesthetic or visual do get the dialogue going. But sometimes, it shows up in word usage or the midwestern accent or how the story come to you first.

          For instance, a visual will use words like see, seeing, saw, glimpse, glimmer, light, bright, shiny, shimmering, glistening etc because they are all visual. “Great to see you!” even on email or here, on a blog. :>

          An auditory will use words that sound – clang, snap, nasal twang, snap, hear, hearing, heard, whisper, whistle, whinge, whine. They’ll say, “Oh, I heard you were here (even if they read it on FB) and came by to say hello!” (heard, say)

          A kinesthetic will use action/motion words – feel, felt, smooth, rough, gripping, soft, leathery, touch, taste, savor. They’ll say, “I had a feeling I might find you here. Ohh, you smell good!” Grins.

          So as a writer if you notice that everyone is stepping over, under, around, into, up, down, through, etc (very kinesthetic and something I did on virtually every page in one mss) then you need to break that up with seeing and hearing and sounding out and visualizing. :>

          Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 3:27 pm
          • I guess I do say “good to see you” a lot – I never really thought about that. I could also use a lot of works that mean “he looked” when I’m writing. (Thank you,!)

            So, based on this, I’m a combination of visual and kinesthetic. I never knew that!

            Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 6, 2011, 3:35 pm
          • OMG, Jeanne! My characters are always stepping back, sidestepping or what-have-you. This is brilliant stuff to know what to layer in later. Hint for me – it’s NOT stepping :D.


            Posted by Kelsey Browning | April 6, 2011, 4:06 pm
      • Jeanne, aren’t you lovely? Thank you! I’m lucky in that I have a very kinaesthetic critique partner – only just realised that about her but it’s true. She’s always telling me to put in the feely, active stuff. Because the other thing is if you’re not naturally K, you tend to put in what feels like a lot to you but actually isn’t! Maybe I should have been a playwright – my people have NO trouble talking to one another!!!! LOL!

        Posted by Anna Campbell | April 6, 2011, 4:44 pm
        • Heehee. Had to LOL about you needing to layer in MORE. But you’re right, if it’s not your primary modality, you’ll go to a certain point, but it will…wait for it….FEEL like enough to you, whether it’s putting in sound if you’re not auditory, or putting in more visuals if you’re not visual. However, it’s usually barely at the level of noticable to a person operating mostly in that mode. This is where you hear critiques that say, “I wish you’d just have them TOUCH each other more” or “You know, there’s a lot of action, but it’s really quiet. Where’s the crashing and zapping and blaring horns?” or they say something nebulous like, “I just can’t see where they are, when they are, or what’s going on. They’re talking a lot, the dialogue’s good, and the groping and grabbing is totally hot, but what the heck does he LOOK like?”


          Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:00 pm
          • Anna – A playwright? Now there’s an idea! You should give it a shot! (Scratch that – it would take time away from writing your historicals. I need my Anna fix!)

            Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 6, 2011, 9:26 pm
  11. Hey, Jeanne! Wow, fascinating stuff! I suspect I’m kinesthetic auditory. I don’t mind the piles on my desks (yes, I have two – one for writing, one for the business side of writing) and clutter doesn’t bother me. When I write, I often tie rubberbands together or play with whatever I have handy (right now that would be a safety pin and a paperclip *g*) My stories come to me as scenes, like movies playing in my head, and it’s up to me to get the description and dialogue down on paper. I’ve taught myself to write to music so that when the kids are home, I don’t hear them – because if I hear them, I can’t concentrate 🙂

    Posted by Beth Andrews | April 6, 2011, 2:52 pm
    • Hi Beth! Yes, that’s how I “see” my scenes, too – like movies playing in my head. Thank you! I was having a hard time putting it into words, which doesn’t say much for my writing skills, unfortunately…

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 6, 2011, 3:16 pm
    • Hey Beth!! Another Romance Bandit stops by! *Waving madly* Thanks! I think you’ve probably assessed it correctly, Beth. You need the musical distraction – and I’ll bet it’s music you know, not something new or on the radio where you have no control over it – rather than the auditory distraction of conversation. Teenaged conversation at that! Hahah! And comfort with stacks and needing to tie rubber bands together would be quite kinesthetic! Heehee. I’ve never heard of that as a distraction/thinking tool, but hey, whatever works! :> I usually have a tennis ball that I throw for the dog, or toss around or bounce. I have one of those squishy balls too, for “stress” – ha! For distraction! Believe it or not, chewing gum works too. They give it highly kinesthetic kids during tests to keep them focused on the test rather than distracted by the fact that they’re “chained to the desk” for the duration of the test. :>

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 3:20 pm
  12. Hey Jeanne!

    Well, now you have me all confused. I have music on my ipod to cut out the distractions around me, but I learn best by jumping in and doing. (Must be why I’m a pantzer.) But then I do like my clutter organized. When it gets too much I have to straighten and put things away so that I have a certain amount of neat negative space in my room.

    Will have to think on this conundrum a bit. Maybe I’ll put away that pile of tax papers and listen to some music while I do it!

    Posted by Suzanne Ferrell | April 6, 2011, 4:12 pm
  13. Hi Jeanne! (And a big hello to the Banditas!)

    Great post!

    I switch off between the kitchen counter and the dining room. I have an office upstairs, but it’s a mess. Clutter doesn’t bother me that much, but during the day, I prefer lots of natural light in the room when I write. Depending on my writing mood, I can write with music or the tv on but never with anyone else in the room.

    Thanks so much for joining us on RU today.

    Jen (Pink P.)

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | April 6, 2011, 4:58 pm
  14. Hi, Jeanne! (And hi PINK!) My workspace is a little desk I shoved into a corner of the library, I sit facing the wall (with a window alongside) and with my back to the house at large. I am an auditory learner, but my secondary is kinesthetic. It shows in my pile of clutter. 🙂

    I really like to move around when I work, so I often get up to go get water, stretch my legs/back or pace the floor. While actively learning, though, I like to hear the words. The optimum is having a presentation that has words on the screen while it’s being lectured about. I LOVED going to class in college and my husband (the visual learner) learned everything by reading the book and skipped class.

    My workspace is not optimal, but it works for me. I do have a great ability to tune out sounds, having grown up in a large, rowdy family. I like background noise a lot, though, and don’t work well when the house is too quiet. I have little interest in watching television, but I like to hear it talking to itself in the next room. 🙂

    Posted by Caren | April 6, 2011, 5:31 pm
    • Hey Caren! *waves madly!* Another Bandita invades! :> I love that you know your modalities. I’d bet that K is pretty high, if you work best with frequent water and strech breaks. And auditory too as a primary, that’s why you have such snappy dialogue! Grins. I’m K primary, with a strong visual backup. So for me, having a teacher who looked weird or had strange mannerisms or gestures was incredibly distracting and I’d have a hard time learning from them. However, like your DH, if I read the book, and took copious notes (write the words – K, see the written words – V) I’d nail every test. Grins.
      I too love that ambeint noise of voices around me, so I frequently work in the Starbucks where I can tune it out or in, but have that people energy around me. An Auditory would go stark raving mad in there.

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 7:12 pm
      • Jeanne, fascinating! I always thought I was odd (no comments from the peanut gallery) because I never take notes. When I was at uni, I was convinced I was a complete waste of time but even if I wrote something down because everyone else was, I never went back and read it again. Whereas I’d remember what I was told – definitely auditory!

        Posted by Anna Campbell | April 6, 2011, 7:26 pm
    • Hi Caren – Boy, I wish I was an auditory learner. I never remember things unless I see them written down. That’s the main reason I DO take notes – I rarely refer back to them, but just seeing the words on paper helps me remember them.

      Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 6, 2011, 9:29 pm
      • Becke, I was like this as well. I would take copious notes, and doodle and draw while listening, and I’d remember it all. If I needed a “goose” I only had to read thorugh those notes, or if I was feeling really insecure, re-write them. The combo of writing (kinesthetic, my primary mode), and seeing the words on the page (visual, my strongest backup) cemented the knowledge in my brain.

        Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:54 pm
        • I first noticed this when I was in PTO. I met so many people and I was having a hard time remembering all their names. I noticed I could always remember the names of people who’d been wearing name tags when I first met them. Unfortunately, in everyday life most of us don’t go around with our names plastered to our chests. Facebook really helps, because I connect the profile pictures to the names.

          Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | April 6, 2011, 10:01 pm
  15. Anna C., I am forever forgetting to describe what things look like in my scenes, because I am not visually oriented AT ALL. I could write a scene with vivid feeling, touching and movement, but no scenery if I wasn’t careful. 🙂

    Posted by Caren | April 6, 2011, 5:32 pm
  16. Caren, isn’t that interesting? I love how we’re all so different. Annie West, who is the much appreciated critique partner, will say of my early draft scenes “It’s all talking heads.” You know, nobody’s actually DOING anything, they’re just gabbing. I don’t even notice when I get into the swing of dialogue – thank goodness she picks it up for me!

    Posted by Anna Campbell | April 6, 2011, 7:24 pm
  17. Hi, Jeanne. Loved your article. I guess I’m a Kinesthetic with a Visual back up. I have to do a task to really learn it, and the way a space feels is super important to me. I hate being cold, and I really need to reupholster my chair. It’s gotten all hard and non-cushy over the years. My office is full of clutter. I have piles of books, silk flowers, decorative dolls, a small harp, a black witch’s hat, and an electronic keyboard in there in addition to my writing stuff (and it’s a very small room). But most of it is visually pleasing to me in some way. I’ll have to re-read my work with this info in mind. I’m curious to see how it plays out in my stories.

    Posted by Tori Minard | April 6, 2011, 7:50 pm
  18. Now that I’ve thought about it a bit more, I think I have a strong auditory component too. So that’s confusing. 😉 I do hear dialogue in my head, sometimes so vividly it’s almost like hearing voices. And music can be very distracting to me. I love Starbucks, as long as no one voice stands out too much. If one or two people are talking louder than everyone else, though, it drives me nuts.

    Posted by Tori Minard | April 6, 2011, 8:07 pm
    • Tori, as I mentioned, as writers, we train ourselves to use all the modalities. And remember, talking is action too – it preciptates it (GO! DO!) – and it drives the action, so this doesn’t surprise me at all, that you “hear” it in your head, as you “see” it play out, because it’s a natural outgrowth of a good writer to use all three. :> However you create, though, if you get your space working for you, instead of against you, those voices in your head can come through more clearly. (And doesn’t that sound like a psychotic break in the making? Heehee)

      Here’s an example of a space that won’t work – a colleague of mine had this happen. The loving DH got her a beautiful desk, set it up in the newly empty bedroom when the eldest daughter moved out. Painted the room a soft beige, got a good desk light, and presented it to her as a present. Perfect for his modality – auditory! Clean desk space. Good light. Quiet room. He thought it would be the best present ever.
      And while she loved the gesture, and the delightful thought, she’s deeply, madly kinesthetic. She has to be reminded to make her characters say stuff and hear things. She needs color and pattern and doo-dads and STUFF in the room. It was too cold. She needed sound, and warmth. And she worked on the floor, with the door closed and the iPod at ear-busting level, with a snack and a Diet Coke for 6 months just because she couldn’t bear to tell her DH that the workspace didn’t WORK for her. She says it’s the least productive six months she ever had. :>

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:46 pm
  19. I’m baaaaack! I took the VAK test, and I’ve scored 26 points on K, 25 on V and 24 on A…..
    I think that means I’ve got the consistency of mashed potatoes. =)

    thanks for the great post today Jeanne! Thoroughly enjoyed it!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 6, 2011, 9:15 pm
    • Carriee, you crack me up! Heehee. It means that you’re primarly mode is Kinesthetic. You’ll prefer to learn by doing, and you like to get the feel of things. However, as a writer/artist/creator, you’ve trained yourself to be comfy with all the modalities, just like Toni, and several others. It means you’re a good “all-rounder” However, you will probably still want to double check your work to be sure you’ve given enough visuals, and auditory cues. Maybe not…but it’s worth a check. Also, for your workspace, you’ll want to be comfy, so if you’re not, and you want to get more done while you’re IN your workspace, make comfort and visual attractiveness things you focus on in your office/writing area.

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 9:50 pm
  20. Jeanne –

    This was not only a fabulous post today, but a lot of fun interaction here in the comments! Thanks so much for chatting about all our modalities. This will definitely help me in revisions on my current WIP.

    One thing I’ve found is that I write different scenes with different “modalities.” I can write on in all dialogue, then one with a lot of action. So I have to go back and beef up the missing parts.

    And thanks to all the Banditas for stopping by today!


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | April 6, 2011, 10:14 pm
    • Thank you for having me on to post here at Romance Unversity, Kelsey! Most writers DO switch modes, as you described, because they create characters that are different than they are – perforce they create auditories and visuals as characters even if they’re kinesthetic! Because, of course, a writer is creating “real” people. :> It’s fun to know this kind of thing because you can make your writing much richer and with more depth and power by including all the modalities.

      And you can always find/replace if you’ve used “stepped” too much. Hahah! I find that I pick one word per mss and use it to death, then have to go back through in edits and replace TONS of them. In Dark and Dangerous, my first published book, it was the stepping thing. In Dark and Deadly, it was “against” – everyone was against the wall, racing against time, or ranged against the prosecution. :> In Deadly Little Secrets, my latest book, it was over. People got over their issues, moved over something in every page, thought things over, picked over…yeah. Had a LOT of those to replace. Grins. IN the book that comes out this Sept. Deadly Little Lies, the word of the book was “even” – even if, even though, even out, even-steven, even while…

      I now keep a list and do searches with each mss. It’s nuts. Hahah!

      Oops, I believe that was off-topic! Sorry!

      Again, thank you so much for having me! I’ll pop back in tomorrow to double check if there are more questions if anyone else decides to post something…

      Posted by Jeanne AKA The Duchesse | April 6, 2011, 10:48 pm
  21. I’m definitely a kinesthetic learner! The section where Jeanne describes that kinesthetic learners often think we are auditory because we love music and dance is dead on! I was aware of some of this before, but this presentation of the material and how it applies to my writing was really eye-opening. Thanks Jeanne!

    Posted by Roxanne Ravenel | April 7, 2011, 10:33 am


  1. […] started with a fun link, and I thought I’d end with one. At Romance University, read this article by Jeanne Adams to find out if you’re visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, and how to use that […]

Post a comment

Upcoming Posts





Follow Us