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To me, if you see all those months and numbers with colors and fonts, you have synesthesia. Because I have no mental picture at all of any of these things. One of my kids has it, and we like to happily grill her on what color and shape our names are and that sort of thing. I always WANTED to have it, since I read (probably in 12th grade, right after reading about existentialism) that people with synesthesia are more artistic and creative than all of the other dull-headed dimwits.

I am so happy you have a YA coming out! "Nothing like an Adam Rex novel" as the saying goes.

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Do you have "visual" memories? Do you picture scenes in your mind when you read?

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I do, but not nearly as strongly as I know other people do. Similarly, I rarely picture the illustrations when I'm writing a picture book. People always ask me if the characters look how I was picturing them, and I have to admit I wasn't picturing anything.

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Jun 21, 2023Liked by Adam Rex

I love reading this! I have letter-color and number-color associations that have stayed the same since my first memories of reading and writing. The number 3 is orange, as is the letter C (and they are both in the same family). B is baby blue, 7 and L are yellow, etc. And I actually *see* colors with loud noises and intense physical feelings. A loud bang is always a white or yellow flash, a stubbed toe is a brick red smear, pins and needles are stars and sparkles, etc. That's all strange and whatever, but here's the *really* weird one... there's a criss-cross in my brain with certain textures and tastes. Like, this new silver color for Lexuses (Lexi?) is so chewy I nearly gag when I see it. Also, any kind of stubbly texture gives me the same taste sensation of fruit stripe gum. It sounds so bonkers to write all that out loud, but I didn't even realize any of it was... not typical... until a few years ago!

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Woah, you're the real deal! Is it a detriment in any way? It all sounds cool, which is probably a very thoughtless thing to say about a neurological difference, and I suppose I'd prefer not to gag whenever I see a silver Lexus.

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Jun 21, 2023Liked by Adam Rex

Overall, not too much of a detriment other than people thinking I'm solidly bonkers when I describe silver cars as "chewy." Ha. Over the years I've had a small bit of pushback editorially when I use descriptive language that *I* think makes sense but makes everyone else go ???. It's pretty great for writing poetry, though. :) Right now I'd like to learn more about how synesthesia might affect spatial and directional perceptions. I am always upside down and turned around, and it would be nice to be able to go in the correct direction sometimes.

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I also have these kinds of color and spatial associations! Until about 10 years ago, I thought everyone did... like, Tuesday is red, August is orange, the 1990s were a medium shade of blue, and we all agree on this, right? Then I shared some pictures of my mental maps on Facebook and most of my friends gently told me that this was not how they experienced the world. I have wondered whether a Sesame Street sketch or some kind of toy number cube might be to blame!

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Especially that Sesame Street pinball animation with the Pointer Sisters—I always figured it was that.

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Jun 23, 2023·edited Jun 23, 2023Liked by Adam Rex

That's fascinating! I don't have that. But I do have strong feelings about numbers. For example, 11 and 13 are fantastic and 12 is great because it's right next to them. However, 10 and 14 are bad for some reason. I could go on and on, but of course I'm aware that none of it actually makes any sense. It might be an OCD thing. Anyway, synesthesia sounds more fun. I'm curious, does it bother you when something is printed in the "wrong" color?

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That's fun! I'm not bothered when numbers are the "wrong" color, though I could see myself developing that—the more I think about all this, the stronger my impressions become.

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This is so interesting! Thanks for mapping it out. I don’t have cool associations like that but recently I learned that there are some people who can’t visualize anything in their head at all and, of course, it made me wonder if that’s me. After thinking about it way too much, I came to the conclusion that I visualize things in words first rather than images. And fuzzy images second. Which maybe is weird because I’m an illustrator. But I guess that’s why I have to figure everything out on the page using shapes first. I’ve wondered if illustrators who are more drawn to shape usually figure it out on the page like that versus illustrators who are more drawn to line maybe have images in their head. No way for me to test this but my rambly point is…it is so fascinating how different all of our brains are!

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I'm floored to hear an illustrator say this. Just shows me that I probably don't really know what's going on in my OWN process. But to be clear, while I do think in images, those images are terrible. Blurry and incomplete. I can draw a picture of a person if I have a photo of them, but I can't draw a really good one from memory. Not even my wife's face.

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Oh interesting! I'm 100% the same way. Glad I'm not the only one. It definitely makes pictionary stressful haha ("You'll beat us all at this game cuz you're an illustrator. Wait...that's supposed to be a dog?") And about the process thing, I relate; so much of it feels like a mystery because it is so hard to think about how I am thinking and then articulate it. That's why your post is so cool!

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Love reading everyone’s responses here! I definitely have strong associations with certain colors for numbers and letters, but also wondered if that was a Sesame Street thing or not. But, mine are not the same as yours, so if we both got it from Sesame Street, that theory is suspicious. The one that I found interesting, is that I associate people with colors. Like, when I think of a certain person, a color comes to mind, and they are specific like “slate blue”, “ivy green” etc.

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Oh, interesting. I don't think I have that at all.

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And I don’t associate the months of the year in the way you do, but my husband does something similar to what you do. We’ve drawn our “views” for each other before and it’s wild. I have the months like a curved side-scroller timeline (it’s like the way a ruler has little notches in it) and I visually move it to the left and right when I think about dates. Brains are so cool!

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I visually associate low numbers with dots. They pretty much look like the ones on dominos, assuming we're talking about a number that's 12 or less. There's no color outside of black dots on white background, just the number of dots arranged in some way (not always the same). Once the number is bigger than that, I just see the picture of the typed number-- so I think of thirteen as 13; other complicated numbers, like pi, are the same way: 3.14127 and so on. All these things are black and white and now I realize, very boring.

Word, though, words--I see them all kinds of ways. Not consistently (like, when I hear bird, any bird might appear in my head--there's no "go to")--but definitely pictures, movies or animations get paired in my mind with everything. A lot gets borrowed from things I've watched in movies or on TV; other things are memories of my family or myself; still other are just things I imagine. A lot of times when I imagine, though, it's just like...you know how they show the sketchy initial animation as bonus footage in old Disney movies? A lot of it looks like that. Kind of a sketchy b&w character moving through a very simple set that moves along with them. Sometimes I catch myself "doing" the thing the character does when I'm trying to write. Momentarily stopping typing to "reach" for a door knob, and then back to typing about reaching for a doorknob.

This is all very strange, isn't it? Minds are amazing things. It still makes me fill with wonder that I don't have to remember to breathe or tell my heart to beat.

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Jun 20, 2023Liked by Adam Rex

I had a phase where I was obsessed with synethesia and heterochromia despite having neither.

I read a ton (relatively) of books about synesthesia. A Mango-Shaped Space, anyone?

Anyway, pretty neat to hear you've probably definitely got it and thank you so much for sharing your colours! Does your alphabet have colours too?

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I have some letter-color associations, some stronger than others, but nothing like I do with numbers.

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I enjoyed this so much! My love language is colors :)

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There's a memoir I enjoyed on synesthesia called "Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kitten" (because those words were always those colors). The author tells a story about how she discovered as an adult that she's synesthetic. She was sitting with her dad reminiscing about her childhood, and she said something about how when she learned to write letters, she always thought it was neat that you could change the color of a P just by adding one little line and turning it into an R. Her dad was all, "What are you talking about?" and she's like, "You know, how a P is orange but an R is purple" (or whatever) and that's when she found out that not everybody sees letters as colors.

Most synesthetes have the same color associations their whole lives, which is one of the things that "validates" synesthesia. Few people would lie about their color associations and then remember all the colors they associated with letters in a lie they told twenty years ago. And people tend to have very specific colors – not just "green" but "chartreuse" (is that what chartreuse is?).

There are a bunch of other interesting tests. Like, if you fill a large board with the letter S except for one numeral 5 and ask a non-synesthete to fine the 5, they'll take a long time scanning the board looking for the one that's a different shape. But a synesthete has a much easier time just finding the character that's a different color than all the rest.

At least, that's what I remember from the book. I read it 20 years ago. Not a synesthete myself. But very fascinated.

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That's so interesting. Frankly, I love the idea of that test but don't think I'd pass it. I believe I'd have to find the five, which would then feel more green to me in a field of all those pale yellow S's (I literally realized S's are pale yellow while envisioning this test). I am, if anything, and associative synesthete rather than a projective one, the latter being the sort who actually sees a colored shape when trumpets play or whatever.

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Other little things I remember: Leonard Bernstein was synesthetic and when he conducted, he used to say thing like, "Could the strings play that section a little more orange?" See also Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. And many people have low-level synesthesia traits we don't really think about, like saying someone is wearing a "loud" shirt, or the Bouba/Kiki effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouba/kiki_effect

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Do you follow Nathan Pyle (the Strange Planet cartoonist) on Insta or Twitter? He does a lot of great polls that take the Bouba/Kiki effect and streeeetch it out to things like, "If GRBD fought XKLZ, who would win?" or "Which vowels are even and which are odd?"

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Oh interesting! I'll have to check him out.

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