Have you ever been walking and decided to shut your eyes and see how far you could walk without peeking? I used to do this while walking home from school. I’d pick a spot up ahead: a line in the sidewalk, a bush, etc., close my eyes and try to reach that precise spot before opening my eyes, letting my senses tell me when I reached that spot.
Amazingly, most of the time, I was able to do this. I’d open my eyes and I was right there or within inches. While walking, in my mind, I’d see what I knew was there as I headed toward my goal: the grass, a fence, etc. as I’d walked the path so often. My mind was able to see what my eyes could not and my body, my instincts, felt when I reached my goal. In a way, it was my own leap of faith that I could do it. Don’t ask me why i ever did this . Walking home from school in the days when moms did not pick us up was boring!
Every once in a while, I still do this as an adult while out walking and find it enlightening to rely on other senses, not my eyesight. It’s a great way to really see the detail around me and feel my world, not just see it passing by. Of course, you do have to be safe—no cracks in the sidewalk, not close to a busy street, no hazards, etc. Being aware is key! It’s a way of letting go of the rush, stress and the sheer responsibility of our lives for just a few minutes. Instead of being in control, in the driver’s seat, we give ourselves up to just feel, not think.
As writers, we take a lot of leaps of faith, relying on our other senses instead of our eyes. We close our eyes and draw up on our other senses to write our stories. We aren’t seeing a live picture of what we write about but instead, draw from our memories and our senses and even call up on instinct, sensing the right words or tone for our stories.
But do we really see what we are writing about? Do our readers? How many times have we read that a day is beautiful or that our hero leaned against the trunk of a tree or have an author tell us how green the grass is? While we can all call upon our own life experiences to paint those pictures of tree trunks, green grass or beautiful days, a good writer lets us feel and see her vision of these examples in her writing, whether fiction or non-fiction.
By telling us what kind of tree, or how the trunk feels (smooth, rough, sappy, ants crawling up it, etc.) we become immersed in the story. We see each scene not through the author’s eyes, but the author’s ability to use his or her senses. How wonderful it is when we can close our eye and see those vivid images and details. That writer/author took a leap of faith and asked us to close our eyes and see what she felt.
My challenge is to take a walk, somewhere safe and try to see your world using your other senses. We see so much yet we often aren’t really seeing what’s there. We take our world around us for granted and we miss so much.
With your eyes open, study the area around you, choose a spot, and walk slowly toward it. I’m not about to suggest to anyone to walk with his or her eyes closed just because I do this crazy thing, and always have. But let your senses guide you to that exact spot and once there, sit and record what you see? What you feel? Why did you pick that spot? Did something draw you to it?
Look close, at what is not obvious to the eye. An ant trail? A hidden bloom? Are the blades of grass tall and thin or short and wide? What do you feel? The sun on her face, on your back, a soft breeze? The buzz of a bee. What do you sense in this area that you cannot see? Now as writer’s we can have great imaginations. Is there a body buried in the ground, is it the perfect place for lovers to meet and make out (I do write erotica here), can you imagine the children who ran across the grass with their puppy? You can’t see any of this but I bet you can both imagine it and sense some of it. Well, maybe not the dead body!
Take off your shoes. What do the soles of your feet tell you? Can you feel vibrations, warmth, cold? How about your toes. Do they curl into the grass or sand or avoid contact? Why? Use your hands. Are the rocks warm or cold, rough or smooth? What does the grass feel like? Is there a tree in the area? What do you see and hear? Close your eyes and really listen. Do you hear the leaves rustling or birds or squirrels?
Every time you repeat this process, close your eyes and see what you’ve miss by only relying on your eyesight. This exercise can be done anywhere: your backyard, a park, a beach, in your house (okay, maybe you’ll fall asleep but hey, naps are one of life’s greatest pleasures, right?), office (maybe when the boss isn’t around). Any setting works. Then use what you discover in your writing. Maybe a short story about why you think a body is buried in the park next to your home.