What’s the difference between sensation and perception? And why, as a writer, should you even give a hoot?
“Sensation” refers to the assimilation of the “raw” sensory elements that we take from the world around us. With our sense of sight, for example, images are detected by the rods and cones on our retinas and sent via our optic nerves to our brains. From there, the brain takes over.
“Perception” refers to how the brain processes the raw sensory input. It can vary according to how you’re taking in the neural information from your peepers.
Artist M.C. Escher became world famous by understanding our ability to perceive visual input from a variety of perspectives. Escher created an assortment of stunning images that can be perceived in more than one way. Here’s but one example:
How can the water in the above image defy gravity? It can’t; your brain isn’t telling you the truth.
Here’s another example, which I banged out in a few minutes. It’s a lot closer to home for writers:
It is vry intretsing hw our eeys raed wrds coreclty, eevn thoguh tehy are msslped. Waht our eeys see and waht our brian prcieves are two diffrnt tihngs. Wihch begs the qusetoin: Why the hcek do we ues spll chcek, aynawy? Awnser: Pubilhsres wil neevr be intrestd if yuo wirte praagrafs scuh as this.
Although this paragraph is a complete mess, our brains have been conditioned to perceive the words in a way that makes sense.
My point is this: Always be very careful when proofing your material. We work hard to make sure that our words flow on the page in an effective, interesting fashion, so it’s a shame if a mistake that you missed stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. Your eyes saw it accurately, but your perceptive brain didn’t catch it. So:
1. Use spell check, but be careful.
2. Read - your - work - one - word - at - a - time. I like to print out my material and literally tap each word with a pen.
3. Try reading your work out loud.
4. Try to read your work backwards. (To put it another way: .backwards work your read to Try.)
5. Get another brain, a fresh one that hasn’t seen your work, to go over it. If you don’t have two brains, ask someone else to read it. (Special thanks to Churm Media staff writer Nicole Lyons.)
After all is said and done, lighten up. Atfer al, wer olny hmuan.