So it was brought to my attention that this was something I should talk about more. Normally I don't hide it, but it doesn't tend to come up unless, well, it comes up. But it seems to be something a lot of people don't really understand and something that they're interested in when it does come up, and it's an important part of my life, so I figured I should share it with you guys.
I have synesthesia.
Without getting too technical, synesthesia (sin-es-theez-ah) is a neurological condition that's caused when the part of the brain that processes the senses has crossed or extra connections. The majority of the time it's something you're born with (as in my case) and is pretty harmless. Somewhere around 4% of people are believed to have some form of natural or constant synesthesia, so it's not quite as rare as you'd think, but the cool thing about it is the sheer variance. There are more types of synesthesia than I can count, and it's fairly common for synesthetes (people with synesthesia) to have multiple types, but even between two synesthetes with the same type the experiences can be wildly different. All around, though, the basic concept is that it causes a sensory reaction from a sense other than the trigger's sense.
Because that's a super confusing sentence, let's take my primary type. I have a few different types, but the one that affects me most is sound-color synesthesia.
In short, I see sound. I hear it, just like a non-synesthete might, but I also see it in color. Every sound has a distinct color, though I get some types of sound more clearly than others. Like the little mini infographic over there says, music plays into it a lot. (You'd think that'd give me an edge when it comes to playing music, but no, I have no musical ability whatsoever.) The color is an automatic reaction, not something I can control; it's the way my brain reacts to and processes sound. Like most synesthetes my experiences are consistent, but don't have much of a pattern. The same person's voice will be the same color every time I hear them talk, but similar sounds aren't necessarily similar colors.
Like anything, it has its pros and cons. Sound-color synesthesia can be incredibly overwhelming, even though I've lived with it all my life and am used to the constant color, and can make it difficult to be in situations with a lot of different sounds. Voices are something I react more strongly to, so large crowds aren't always fun.
But Lacy, you constantly go to concerts and conventions and stuff, so it can't be that bad, right?
Totally valid. Concerts and conventions are 100% worth it.
Which brings us to the pros. It can be hard to remember when I'm suffering a bad synesthesia headache from being assaulted with a thousand colors at once for too long, but it's actually a pretty damn cool condition to have. You guys hear (read, whatever) me talk about music all the time on this blog, and while I'm sure there are plenty of non-synesthetes who connect with music just as much as I do, part of what makes it such an amazing experience is that I have synesthesia. I not only get to hear it, but see it. There's another level to listening to music for me, and I can't imagine music without color.
Just for fun so you guys maybe get a better idea of what I'm talking about, I'm listening to In The End by Black Veil Brides as I write this. Andy Biersack's voice is a vibrant red with just a tinge of purple, and the song as a whole has a lot of intense, deep blues and golds to it that bring that purple side of his voice out a little more. It's really stunning to watch, actually. Granted, I have a tendency to favor sounds in purples, blues, and golds, considering they're my favorite colors (some of you know my love of NateWantsToBattle--his voice is one of my favorite shades of teal), so that particular song hits all the right places for me.
Apart from music, though, my synesthesia plays a ton into my writing. I've had to train myself a little to tone down the synesthetic descriptions to a level that makes sense to other people, because it's so natural for me to describe things that way, but I've been told enough still slip through that once you know they're there you can spot them. (So fun game, I guess? Spot the Synesthete Slip-Ups?) On the bright side, synesthetic description is a legit literary technique and comes easily to me. Go figure.
It's also a big part of how I develop my characters and stories. Not only through sound-color, but through aesthetics as a whole. Colors and imagery are tied very closely to the idea of my characters in my head--almost like I visualize that more than the character themselves. That tendency is probably tied to abstract-color synesthesia, which is a more minor type I have that causes me to associate abstract concepts with colors and imagery. The concept of time, for example, appears as swirling wisps of gold with glowing white edges. Maybe it doesn't make as much sense as knowing facts about the characters, but once that comes to me I feel I understand them completely. Thankfully, aesthetics are a growing trend that make it a lot easier for me to express that. If you've headed over to my Pinterest you'll find I have boards for my characters that are filled with a lot more pictures of random objects than anything that might resemble the actual character.
When it comes down to it, synesthesia is a part of who I am, and something I can't imagine not having. It's not always fun, but I'm glad to have it and to have the opportunity to share it with you guys. I'm going to try to be open about how it plays into my writing process more, so I hope you'll look forward to seeing that.
If you have any questions about synesthesia, what it's like to live with, what a certain sound looks like to me, or anything else ask! I'm an open book when it comes to that. And if you're a fellow synesthete feel free to talk about your experiences!
Otherwise, I think that's about it for now. Some actual updates on writing, publishing, NaNoWriMo, and whatnot are coming soon, so stick around.