On the first Monday of every month, I’ll be offering a free exercise for fostering your creativity. These are a sampling of the exercises that I suggest to my Fostering Creativity clients. My clients’ exercises are tailored to their specific needs and challenges, but these free exercises will give you a peek at how my program works. Each month, I’ll select one winner. The winning entry will be highlighted on my blog, you will receive the #JustWrite Fostering Creativity Award to display on your blog or web site, your entry will be showcased at the Winner’s Circle, and you’ll receive a mystery prize as well. Scroll to the end of the post to read about last month’s winner.
For this month’s #JustWrite exercise, we’ll play with words and wonder, opening our senses to the world, so that we can invite our readers into it.
Awakening the Senses
Our world is full of images, but our senses are often dulled to them.
Gabriele Rico, Writing the Natural Way
Very young children are Zen masters. They explore the world with wonder, engaging it with all of their senses, discovering the color, shape, size, texture, sound, smell, even taste of everything they can get their chubby hands on. Just ask any mother of a newly mobile child.
As we grow up, we lose touch with our inner Zen master though. We exchange wonder and discovery for responsibilities and schedules. We begin to sleepwalk through life. We’ve forgotten to see the world, to experience it with all of our senses and all of our being, to be a part of the world rather than apart from it.
My husband likes to tell a story about an English teacher from his high school days, who would tell his students: “Twenty-five details! Good enough for Ray, good enough for you!” The story goes that Ray Bradbury always made sure he had at least 25 details about any scene he wrote, even if he didn’t use all of them. I’ve yet to be able to confirm this, but it’s a nice story.
Draw [the] world with your words, and you will draw the readers in.
Jane Yolen, Take Joy
Take some time this month to fully engage your senses, to truly see the world, to reawaken your sense of wonder. Dorothea Brande exhorts taking fifteen minutes to “notice and tell yourself about every single thing that your eyes rest on” in Becoming a Writer. In her book, Take Joy, Jane Yolen suggests going out into the world and spending up to an hour sitting still, just watching.
Engage all of your senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Go beyond the basic senses though; develop your wondersense instead. Aim for that state of Zen mastery and exploration you had as a young child. Delve into the tone of a scene, listen to the shape of words, try to capture the texture of an emotion. Pay attention to the senses you rely too heavily on, and those you dismiss. Bring balance to them as much as possible. If you really want to get daring, play with synesthesia: mix the senses up. What does purple taste like?
While it would be ideal to go out into the world for this exercise, you could opt instead to take a walkabout into your imagination. You could go to an imaginary place or a remembered one. You could even choose instead to take a scene you’ve already written and inject it with sensory details.
Vivid, exact, concrete, accurate, dense, rich: these adjectives describe a prose that is crowded with sensations, meaning, and implications.
Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft
#JustWrite Challenge: Write with wondersense
This month’s challenge is to describe a scene using all of your senses. See how many sensory details you can crowd into your prose. This can be a real, imagined, remembered, or even revised scene.
Click here to submit your entry to the challenge. (You many need to login or register first.) Enter as many times as you’d like. The challenge will remain open until the first of next month, when I select the winning entry. Now #JustWrite![/stextbox]
Last Month’s Winner
“You know what would help me calm down some? If you go down there and put a bullet between her eyes!”
Caine’s hook starts in the middle of a tense situation. We don’t know what’s going on yet, but the speaker is clearly agitated. “Down there” evokes the image of a heroine trussed up in the cellar, mad scientist’s underground lab, or subterranean cave. And already, the threat of violence!
“Sleeping Beauty doesn’t die!” I slammed the book shut and placed it beside me on the plush window seat that my gramps built for me, last summer, before the accident.
I’d also like to give an Honorable Mention to Jess Isaac Hanna for his entry, which suggested shades of Ray Bradbury with “The fire had no choice but to burn.”