Thinking, the mind's eye, and the mind's ear

Thinking, the mind's eye, and the mind's ear
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Source: Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve read extensively, or if you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you may be somewhat familiar with the expression “the mind’s eye.” It’s the way you can picture something when you’re remembering it — the way you listen to a game on the radio and imagine being at the stadium, the way you think of seeing a picture in a museum and recreate the room around it.

You may not be as familiar with “the mind’s ear.” If I didn’t coin that myself, my apologies to the person I forgot who told me about it. But it’s a sort of audio memory — thinking of a special person’s voice and being able to hear it, or thinking of a piece of music and imagining a particular instrument and person playing it.

I use both the mind’s ear and the mind’s eye when I write about the Imaginary Writers’ Room. It’s a place I’ve imagined in my mind, but I can see it in my mind’s eye — the frosted glass on the window of the door with the sign WRITERS’ ROOM on it; the dark wood of the interior and its big conference table; the soft, rosy pillows of the sofa that Louis Stevenson prefers.

If you know the writers by their pictures, try picturing them in this environment. If you’ve met me, try picturing me bursting in. That’s your mind’s eye at work.

Your mind’s ear is a bit different, but it’s not scary; it’s just another sense to get involved in your memories. I can write all I want about having heard Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s voice on a “talkie” film and thinking he sounded like my Scottish-born grandfather. For those of you who never met Grandpa, here’s a link to Arthur.

Now, the next time I get to the Writers’ Room, you’ll be able to hear him in your mind’s ear. More recent writers are at least somewhat easier to find. Perhaps, like me, you can remember when Agatha Christie died. I can’t remember hearing her actual voice very well, but since she’s taken up residence in the Writers’ Room, it’s become more important. Here is the best pair of “interviews” — well, answered questions — I’ve found so far from Agatha.

Those interviews with Agatha don’t always show her moving around — but now you can stop worrying about that. She’ll move around in your mind’s eye.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.



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  • The mind's ear is essentially an ear worm. Yours are much more complex than the usual "I can't get 'The Edge of Seventeen' out of my head."

  • In reply to jack:

    Thank you. I blame or credit my school years in the orchestra and my home life with my parents both in the church choir and my sister changing from violin to flute to bassoon, with the piano in between each. I have a LOT of musical material, even compared to stories.

  • Isn't it amazing how words can so powerfully evoke a place, sounds and smells, a voice, a memory---or an imaginary world. Writing is like magic.

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    It is amazing -- that's just the word. Their power is dimmed when they are not used properly, whether in speech or writing. I think that's why poor usage bothers me so much. It's like finding trash blocking the door in my mind when I just know the committee is meeting behind the door!

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