icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Random Musings

Capturing the Sensual World

So many books on writing imply that you should chain yourself to your chair for a certain period of time each day and write write write.

For me, writing isn't simply about putting pen to paper or fingers to the keys. Yes, we need to do that, and if we have a specific time given to writing each day, that's great. But there's so much that comes before and in between and even after.

We need to look up from our laptop and notice every sensual detail of our lives. Get off your chair and take in the world. Everything out there - the most beautiful and the ugliest - is grist for the mill.

Walk around and let one idea mix with another and notice the look from someone as you pass by and the scent emanating from a restaurant or manhole or the sound of a chickadee or a jackhammer or a bad violinist on the corner. Take it all in.

Then we're ready to write - not just the sensual details - but your reaction to those details. That leads you to character.

Here's an example. About a year ago I was flying from the East Coast back home to SFO. I had a connection in Denver. I went to the assigned gate and opened my laptop. I had a few hours to wait. I clicked into a story I was writing and lost track of time with the assumption that I could rely on the gate desk person to alert me to boarding. When I finally looked up, I saw that it was beyond the time of the flight departure. I raced to the service desk where I learned that the gate had changed. How was I to know? "You should have looked at the monitors," I was told. I'm not going to go into all that transpired, but I was furious. I had hours more to wait until the next flight, a red-eye.

I went to the bar and ordered a salad and a beer and decided to take advantage of my feelings. I wrote everything I felt physically and emotionally. It was cathartic to get it all out but, more importantly for the writer in me, I captured the feelings of a character in anger, which I can now use whenever I choose.

As an exercise, try to recall a time when you were angry - angry enough to remember the physical feelings. Write it down.

You can do this for any emotion. Just call on your most vivid memories. Better yet, be in the present when you feel emotions and capture them for use later.

Happy writing!

Be the first to comment