Improve Your Writing By Using All Five Senses
Stop What You Are Doing and Close Your Eyes
Just hang with me a few minutes and try this exercise. What do you have to lose? Two minutes is all I’m asking for.
Okay, thank you! Now close your eyes. Take a deep breath and relax. Get as comfortable as possible and clear your mind of the daily detritus.
Now, think back to a time when you had a bite of your favorite cake. What was it, German Chocolate? It makes no difference, just think of the sensation as your lips gently extracted the cake from the fork and your tongue first came into contact with that rich, guilty pleasure. One of the things I love about chocolate cake is that it keeps giving long after the swallow. The flavor remains on your tongue and the sensory pleasure keeps sending signals to your brain, and for a few minutes all is right in the world.
Now open your eyes and remember this: you have five senses, as most of your readers have. We are all sensory beings. Our sight, our hearing, our touch, our smell and our taste, they are the receptors upon which memories are made, and what would life be without memories?
Are you having trouble with writer’s block?
Remember your five senses!
Do you remember the wonder in seeing a rainbow? Have you ever chased one in a car, trying to reach the end of it and the treasures that await you?
Do you remember the sight of your newborn son or daughter? The warm fuzzies that overwhelmed you, holding them for the first time as you looked into their eyes and saw unconditional love looking back at you?
Do you remember the sight of nature? The swiftly flowing stream, the majestic mountains in the distance and the shimmering lake at sunrise; can you see them in your mind’s eye?
Do you remember the look of anguish on the faces of survivors after a catastrophe, or the look of pride as a loved one accomplished the seemingly impossible?
Step outside and look around you. There is an entire magical, mysterious world beckoning you, waiting for you to see the subtle hues and gentle textures.
Can you see it?
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Can you hear the sound of love? Can you hear the sound of pain, joy, confusion and celebration? Are you in tune with the orchestra of life as it unfolds each and every day?
Sit in your garden and close your eyes. Shut out your sight and allow your ears to see for you. The birds sing their songs of life for you. The neighbors living lives of rapture or quiet desperation; can you hear them? The chainsaws preparing for winter; the leaves rustling in the wind; the horns and sirens and shouts, all there for you to inventory and use as inspiration; can you hear them?
Can you hear your departed father teaching you about life? Can you hear your favorite aunt singing as she bakes apple pie when you were five years old, and can you hear the laughter of your children on Christmas day as they open their presents?
Can you hear it?
Can you feel it? Do you remember the first time you touched a worm? A snail? Do you remember the first time you touched your lovers face and felt the beautiful outlines of love looking back at you?
Hold hands with your wife or husband and feel the same feelings you have always felt when you bond with another human being. Can you feel the nerve endings sending continuous signals to the brain, stimulating and manipulating our every move?
Recall the satiny smoothness of silk in your favorite scarf, and the rough, harsh surface of gravel when you fell down running home from school years ago. Can you feel it? Can you feel the tears streaming down your face as your favorite pet died, or the gentle stroking of your hair by your mother in response to that loss?
Do you remember the magic of that first kiss when lips touched lips and a whole new world of experience unfolded? Do you remember the caressing, the exploring and the climax of consummated love?
Can you feel it?
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Can you smell the coppery scent of blood when you cut yourself so many years ago? Can you smell the aftermath of death even though it has been fifteen years since your brother died? Do you remember?
Think back to homemade bread at grandma’s house and the turkey slowly basting in the oven for so many Thanksgivings; can you experience now the sensory stimulation of cinnamon and nutmeg as the pies are placed on the countertop to cool during the holiday seasons of your youth?
Can you smell your own fear when you faced your biggest challenge; do you recall, now, the scent of your own sweat as your body transformed into “fight or flight” mode?
You turn the soil over now in gardens long past and smell the rich soil, and the smell of burning leaf piles on a fall morning; and can you smell the approaching snowstorm as it rushes down the valley towards your house?
Can you smell it?
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Juicy cheeseburgers, delectable banana bread, scrumptious tart pie and the richness of a chocolate milkshake; can you taste them?
Lemonade or frosty beer on a hot summer afternoon; steaming cocoa on a cold winter’s night; eggs and bacon on a fall morning; and strawberry shortcake on a fine April evening; can you taste them?
Lips and tongue explore the contours of your lover’s body, storing memories that will last a lifetime; do you taste it? The downy cheek of your newborn as you gently kiss away their salty tears; do you remember?
Taste the salty air as you stroll along the beach and taste the first snowflake as it drifts down from the heavens and lands on your tongue; yes, indeed, you remember now don’t you?
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Commonalities Are the Key
Writers write and readers read and hopefully there is a joining of efforts, a mutual give and take as a message is sent by the written word and received by those in need of entertainment, instruction or stimulation.
Writers of all genres would do well to remember that we all have similar memories, and those memories are based on our senses. Our senses “sensed” and then categorized and filed away information that will be with us for a lifetime, and the smart writer will remember that as he/she goes about the daily grind of putting words to paper.
Would you like to make an impact on your readers? Speak to their sensory memory!
It makes no difference what your field of writing is; speak to the senses. Are you a recipe writer? Speak to the senses. Are you a travel writer? Speak to the senses. Are you a poet or a short story writer or a dispenser of how-to information? Speak to the senses.
The more common ground you find with your readers, the better they will be able to relate to what you are writing, and there is no more common ground than the five senses that we all have.
Speak to the senses!
Take a few minutes and try this exercise. Close your eyes and relax in your favorite chair. Now imagine yourself as a successful writer with worldwide fame and adulation. Or just imagine you, as a writer, reaching all of your goals in writing. Can you imagine it? Do you want it?
Speak to the senses!
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”