If I describe something to you, you will see it through your own lens.
Imagine, a cat.
It's a black cat.
He has a small patch of white on the tip of his tail, as if he's brushed against a painted surface, no doubt up to mischief.
He's cocky, our little cat. Thinks he owns the neighbourhood, strutting his stuff down the cul-de-sac, tail high and proud, whiskers twitching...
Did you see him?
In your mind's eye, did you find yourself smiling at that cheeky kitty?
Perhaps he reminded you of one of your neighbour's cat?
Or a cat you had when you were a child?
I attributed human characteristics to our lovable little feline... He's strutting - cocky - mischievous.
I could just as easily describe him as skittish, back slung-low, tail flat and you would have imagined a whole different cat, with a different personality.
Our shy cat hugs the shadows, skirting the edge of the pavement, taking cover under parked cars, scurrying away when a human approaches.
Whereas our cocky chap strides proudly up the middle of the street, showing off.
If he had a voice he'd be saying, "Morning ladies, check meoowt!"
We Conjure Our Own Characters
The character (our black cat) and his characteristics, paint a picture. They tell a story.
A story that will be different to everyone who reads it.
Who is this cat?
What does he have to be so cocky about?
What's he up to?
What trouble will he get himself into next?
We can start to 'see it'.
How Do You Learn?
We all have preferences for learning and retaining information.
The most common model used to describe different learning styles is VARK (Visual - Aural - Reading/Writing - Kinaesthetic).
As a writer, you may assume that I learn by 'Reading/Writing' as a preference.
However, I learn by seeing things first (Visual) and then I embed that learning by reading up on it and writing things down. Next, I like to have a go (Kinaesthetic) with my least preferred learning method being told what to do (Aural).
Like 60% of the population, my first preference is to learn 'visually'. However, that doesn't mean that I don't learn by reading, doing or listening.
A common objection people have about writing is this pervading misconception (I reckon it's a conspiracy perpetuated by camera manufacturers) that because most people learn visually they only like pictures and videos, they don't read (books or blogs).
This is simply NOT TRUE.
As demonstrated with my silly little cat story, for visual learners, words conjure pictures - that's how books work!
And sometimes, you know what, we'd rather imagine it ourselves, see it through our own lens with our own perspective and from our own experience, rather than simply accepting someone else's vision of something.
If I asked you to find a picture of that cocky cat, I'd be willing to bet that everyone would find a different picture of our feline friend, we'd find the image that best fits the one we've already conjured in our heads.
That's why books are so often better than the movie, we've put our own mark on a story, in our own minds.
We've decided which actors would play the characters...
(Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher - Really? I would have cast Gerard Butler in the role!)
Content: Images Vs Video Vs Writing
When it comes to creating compelling content, another misconception I want to blow out of the water is this idea that one thing is more important than another. It's a 'competition' between images, video and written content. A fight to the death, with Google as the referee.
Sometimes video is the best way to demonstrate something.
Sometimes a picture is enough.
Sometimes you just want a quick answer (usually a written one) rather than having to sit through a 10 minute video.
"Variety is the spice of life" rings true now more than ever, and this is also the case for how we consume information.
So, next time someone tells you that "no one reads anymore" and all people want is pictures or video, walk away.
There is no 'either or' - the key is to find an appropriate medium for the message and for the audience. Mix it up a little, experiment by repurposing your content into different formats, the results might just surprise you.