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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Tue Jan 26, 1999  6:04 pm
Subject:  How Are SW Symbols Invented?

>When you first started this signwriting thing, how did you come up with that
>idea? And how did you get the idea of how it would look like in writings?
>What made you get the idea of doing this? Forgive me for asking so much here.

January 26, 1999

Dear SW List Members...
I hope you all are doing well, and that you are happy!

I have been receiving a great deal of private email. Thank you for all your
private messages! The above question is asked quite frequently, so I
thought I would share the answer openly with all of you...

There are two answers to the above question. The first answer is
practical...what are the dates? who asked me to do what? etc....that part
of the answer can be found in our History articles on our web site:

SignWriting History Directory

That is the practical, factual answer.

But I believe the question is really asking something is asking
how I developed the writing system itself - how did my thinking process
work when I developed the original symbols?

Have you ever asked a painter how he or she thought of the painting? I am
sure it is hard for many painters to explain their creative processes. I
guess you could say that I am a creative artist too.

The actual symbols are developed intuitively. I write what I see without
judging meaning. When developing a new symbol, I watch the movement, blur
my eyes, and "write what I see" on paper without looking down at my hands.
I have no idea what I wrote, until I look down at the paper. That is the
intuitive part of the process.

Then the practical side of the process begins. I analyze the scribbles I
made, and try to "turn the scribbles into real symbols". Then I place those
new symbols onto separate sheets of paper, and I flip them like animation,
to see if the movement written on paper "looks like" what happened in real
life. In other words, I have taken the concept of animation, without
animating it, and turned it into a visual writing system.

But that is only a third of the job. The next third is to test it with
those who will use those symbols. Do they work, do they not? Can you read
them? If people look at me cross-eyed, then I know I have failed and I go
back to the drawing board. Then I test it again, until we can read each
others' writing.

This process just happened recently when my guests were here from Spain.
There is a section of SignWriting that needs some "perfecting" because some
of the people using some symbols in one country, cannot read the same
movements written in another country! It has to do with small finger
movements. So...while my guests were here I found some old files of ways we
had written these movements before, and I showed these samples to
them...and I could see they were not that happy with the way we used to
write it!! So now I am thinking through other alternatives, which I will
post on our web site in time, and then I will get feedback from lots of
people, until we can all come to a concensus. This takes time of course,
but it is well worth it. And we are succeeding in getting an international
writing system because of this detailed and collaborative work.

And the last third part of the job, is having the guts to publish books on
these symbols, knowing full well that in six months the books will be
out-of-date, as the system continually improves. And I am happy to rewrite
the books until they are the best they can be! I am not afraid of opening
myself up for criticism, because I know that ultimately it is the writers
themselves who will determine the way they want to write....and if I don't
show them what we have right now, how can they possibly give us more
feedback? So publishing, and re-publishing, and re-publishing again... is
an important part of the process.

Perhaps the real answer behind the question is that I believe in what I am
doing, and I have dedicated my life to it, and I respect the opinions of
others. So that is how SignWriting was, and is, being developed.

I hope this answers your question!

By the way, I have more and more email messages from different software
developers - the interest is increasing and that is why I am starting a
"SignWriting Software Developers Forum", to be posted on our SignWriting
Web Site on February 1st.

Have a splendid day!!

Valerie ':-)

Valerie Sutton at the DAC
Deaf Action Committee for SW


Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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