Sense-ical Writing: Putting Your Senses into Words

We're all born with five senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling. All too often we can get too caught up in our daily routines to really see, hear, taste or smell the world around us. Whether you're reconnecting to your self after a long day of work or writing a more realistic picture of your world in your work, our senses provide a great tool for journalling. You can also expand your writing by including bits of each sense into your prose. We experience the world through our senses, allow them to show through your writing as well. Use the following exercises to expand your senses. Writing about how you experience the world can teach you just how much you rely on each sense. Pick a few exercises or a sense and record your thoughts down in your journal.

Sight

  • Capture and distill a moment in time. Take something you witnessed out of your day; whether it was a meeting, or a concert or a bird that sat besides you.
  • Stare at an object for five minutes and then try and describe it as accurately as you can. Attempt to recreate in words, what your eyes see. Make the object jump off your pages.
  • Write about how others see you if they were to pass you on a street. Write from the perspective of a complete stranger, an coworker, a friend, your best friend and your spouse/lover. Look at yourself through their eyes and write what they think of you.
  • Describe a sunset over the ocean. Describe a misty mountain sunrise. Compare the two? Do you think there's any differences to how the sun looks when setting and rising in the different locations?
  • Attempt to describe a color in words without using the color's name. How would you describe red to someone?

Sound

  • Describe what you favorite music sounds like. What pictures does it evoke in your head and how does it make you feel?
  • Write music lyrics to a song that has yet to be written. An advanced variant of this would be to attempt to rewrite the lyrics to your favorite song. If you were elvis, would you have rewritten Blue Suede Shoes differently?
  • Create a soundtrack for your life. Write down the artist and song names for memorable moments in your life. Birth, important people in your life, high school, driving, college, marriage, death. Include details on why those songs were chosen.

Touch

  • Close your eyes and feel your clothing. Write about the textures and what images they inspire. Compare and contrast this feeling with different textures around you.
  • Write about the things that touch your skin and how they make you feel.
  • Write about the various types of handshakes and what they mean to you. Make a day of this and go around shaking various people's hands. How does it feel to touch their skin?

Taste

  • How would you write to a friend about your favorite food? Describe the way the food tastes so that they grow hungry and want to experience the dish themselves.
  • Write about your perfect meal. What dishes and ingredients go into making your perfect meal? Describe the tastes as if you were eating the food right then and there.
  • Compare your favorite tastes to those you disdain. Why do you think you prefer one taste over another? Do you prefer sweeter tastes or sour?

Smell

  • Lightly spray some of your favorite scented oil, perfume or cologne onto a piece of paper. Describe the smell as it hit on contact. Then wait a few minutes and describe the smell now it's settled in. Smell the paper one more time at the end of the day and describe the smell as it faded (if it has). You can also do this
  • Close your eyes and smell your surroundings. Write about what your world smells like and how it makes you feel.
  • You've been asked to sell a smell in your local paper. How would you describe the scent to make everyone want to purchase it?

Not only do these exercises help bring your senses down to the written page but they can also show you which ones you consider your strongest and weakest. If you decide you want to work on expanding your weaker sense, you can reuse the exercises here or in other places to help strength your connection to them. I know just by looking at how many exercises for each sense, that I currently focus more on what I see and hear these days. But when I close my eyes to sleep at night, I love to feel the soft pillow beneath my head and the soft, sleek fur of my cat, purring under my fingers when I pet her. It's these moments that help ground me back into myself and remind me that all five of my sense are valuable and can help bring reality back into my prose.

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Daisy Chains in Winding Meadows...

What a refreshing change inno. I hear the journalist's mantra - Who? Where? What? When? Why? - that often my brain switches off everytime I see a certain friend aproaching. Your article however, has really got me thinking...

Thinking about picnics on the sweet smelling, freshly mown grass. Listening to the babbling water as it runs between our toes, cooling them. The bitter taste of warm 'ginger beer' contrasting sharply with the jam sandwiches and trifle...

The caw of a jay as we lay on the edge of a field. Watching as pugilistic hares provide the entertainment. Smelling the warm earth underneath us and wondering what it must feel like to lay in the sun all day. Fingers entwined we share a moment...

I could go on, however something tells me I am on the edge of banishment. Oh well back to my touchy-feely journal and a sit in the garden.... ;)

Picture

Where did you get the graphic? It might be interesting to turn it into a hipster card for recording/journaling an event or thought processes. Not only could it help in expanding senses but it would help remember the event/thought. If you process something in many different ways (sight, sound, etc.) then you remember it better.

graphics online

I found the graphic online somewhere and shrunk it down and then converted it through a few filters. I'm not sure if I have the original (not sure if it was much bigger than this) but I am sure I can scan in a few anatomy graphics to come up with something similar to this.

If you're interested, I can work on it for you.
/innowen

image

i wanted to follow up on the image comment--i am really interested in using that image for a presentation. do you know where i could find one in high res--300dpi? would be super helpful.
thanks