Sensing Synesthesia

My mind is an odd place, I have decided. Since I am a writer, that statement probably wouldn’t surprise most people. It certainly would not shock my parents, both of whom have thought me strange for a long time. But it does surprise me. You see, I never attempted writing fiction – even though I’ve long wanted to write books – because I never considered myself to have much of an imagination.

So imagine my surprise when I began to discover I can accurately imagine things I didn’t know existed in real life. As an example, I wrote a short story, “The Crazy Magnet,” which included a character who has synesthesia, despite knowing almost nothing about it. Instead, I just let my imagination grow wild. I’ve since read a book (Wednesday is Indigo Blue) about the condition. Synesthesia is a neurological condition wherein the signals from different sensory inputs in the brain are cross-stimulated, and the senses “combine.”


In its most common state, for instance, reading graphemes (letters, words, numbers) produces the sensation of color in the brain. From Wikipedia:

In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → color synesthesia or color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored, while in ordinal linguistic personification, numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities. In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be “farther away” than 1990), or may have a (three-dimensional) view of a year as a map (clockwise or counterclockwise). Yet another recently identified type, visual motion → sound synesthesia, involves hearing sounds in response to visual motion and flicker. Over 60 types of synesthesia have been reported, but only a fraction have been evaluated by scientific research. Even within one type, synesthetic perceptions vary in intensity and people vary in awareness of their synesthetic perceptions.

The weird part is that – in its advance form – synesthesia is exactly as I imagined it. Maybe I’m supposed to write this series. Sounds —-> color, shape, movement, etc., all the things going on in her head, which I haven’t even described in the story. As I read through Wednesday, I found other more rare forms of synesthesia that I’d never heard of but imagined precisely.  Writing is so very odd, and so cool, in an existential, spiritual kind of way. How else can you empathize with people you never even knew existed?

I may never know in my lifetime whether others consider me to be a good writer. Sure, I get good feedback from some people about my work, and a few love it (balanced by all my friends who seem to dislike it). But irrespective of what they think, it is comforting to know that my long-dissed imagination works just fine.

In fact, while I do not have synesthesia, I have long done, in secret, things that only a few synesthetes do. It is as if my brain doesn’t make the connections that synesthetes’ brains make, but I know they exist and can see them if I close my eyes and open my imagination. Perhaps I won’t feel so odd because my mind animates things that are inanimate. Strange that I never once considered that to be imagination, nor have I ever spoken or written of it before.

Wednesday, for the record, is not indigo blue. It is a dull dun color that rattles like the grind of tires on an uphill gravel plane. It is bored, and jealous that its only purpose in life is to give hope that Friday evening will soon come.

A showoff, that gleaming, rainbow Friday. I cannot wait.