In search of words – my journey

I recently read the book “In search of words – footnotes visual thinking techniques” by Oliver West. I found it a deeply moving book. As a dyslexic and visual thinker, so much of his book resonated with me. This is my journey, as I took notes, and then in words so it makes sense to others than me…


1. You know when a book is having a profound effect on you when it makes you feel like you have been “smashed” by the Hulk and yet still feel exhilarated – that’s the effect of this book on me… parts of the first half of the book undid me completely.

2. How amazing to read “symptom” after “symptom” of being a visual learner/dyslexic, so similar to my own story, exciting rather than depressing – I’m not the only one.

3. This book, as with others like it, is a real key to unlock communication – doing this visually is a real breaker of chains.

4. Reading West’s techniques makes me grieve the past – if only this book had been written before I went to school. And yet it also brings me hope for the future, for myself and for others.

5.  This book brings back memories: my family trying to teach me to hold my pen correctly – I still hold it  my own way. And…

6.  - being in a group of people who didn’t pass a psychology exam – the teacher told everyone what they needed to do to pass and then she came to me and said, I can see you know your subject really well, all you need to do is remember the names and dates. She knew I didn’t have the tools to remember them and she couldn’t help me. I failed while others who didn’t know what they were talking about passed through cramming. And…

7.  - West’s visual grid followed by cutting up the squares or numbering them reminded me of how I wrote my essays at uni. By hand, I wrote everything as it came in my head and then put arrows and numbers to re-order it, wrote it again by hand, added more as it came, wrote it again by hand… and eventually typed it up.

8. West talks about how visual thinkers can get into the zone – he calls it hyper-focus. I have experienced this doing tai chi (tellingly known as moving meditation), calligraphy or a mixed media piece for my journal – I can be completely absorbed and have total concentration for hours… unlike in the rest of my life where I have a typical “butterfly brain”.

9. Wow, a method of concentrating on what you are doing while being able to brain dump at the same time – brilliant Oliver, brilliant.

10. And planning too – I will be using this – the kinaesthetic value of this is huge, much better for me than using an  on-line mind map programme.

After I had read the book I stopped to think about what I wanted to do with what I had learnt. It poured out on the paper:

a. I want to help other people find visual pathways, especially young people, I can think of so many of them over the years I have been a youth worker, who would have benefited from this.

b. I shall use what I have learnt to glorify God in my journalling

c. I want to use the WHOLE of my intellect to God’s glory

d. Hyper-focus allows my heart and identity to flow God-ward without interruption

e. I would very much like my skills to be recognised, to have a better “report card” than I did at school.

f. Here I go, visual thinker, this day the beginning of the rest of my life.