Prompt: Writing from the Senses

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One of my sweet pups keeping me company as I wrote tonight’s blog post.

About six years ago, our school produced its most recent literary magazine. This year, fellow English teacher and W.O.W blogger, Thomas Brandon, and I decided to revive it. For the first time in six years, our students have a place to come and write creatively without judgement, deadlines, or any academic pressure. It is my favorite reason to stay after school, and I think our dedicated group of about ten regular attendees probably feels the same way. Our organization is two-fold: a creative writing club that meets to learn about and practice writing, and a staff that actually creates the literary magazine from student submissions.

Thomas and I held our most recent Creative Writing Club meeting outside, enjoying one of two courtyard gardens our school maintains. Thomas, the students, and I dedicated ten minutes to each of our fives sense. We spent three minutes focusing on just one sense, beginning with sight. Then, we spent seven minutes writing about what we had experienced through that sense. Next, we closed our eyes and spent three minutes just listening, giving our focus to our sense of hearing. Then, we spent seven minutes writing about that experience. We proceeded to smell, touch, and finally, taste. It was a beautiful exercise in getting in tune with our environment and our bodies, as well as a way to practice writing description, utilizing imagery, and paying attention to detail.

Next time you feel a sense of writer’s block trying to tell you you have nothing to write about, quiet it with this exercise. Just go somewhere–anywhere–and write from the senses, devoting undivided attention to each one in its turn.

Below are the unedited (aside from typing them up), uncensored small pieces I came up with when I wrote from the senses with the students in our Creative Writing Club earlier this week.

Sight

We are in a garden tucked away in the courtyard of the school, surrounded on four sides by brick. I see an empty, gray trashcan with a collapsed lid, a seemingly abandoned spiderweb splayed across the top, gently rising and falling with each little burst of breeze. I see the abandoned plant in a pot beside the bench across from me. Someone no doubt had the best intentions of planting it, nurturing it. What happened to those intentions? I see half-begun wasp nests, also quiet and empty, not abuzz and pulsating with wings and stings and busy wasp work. Someone no doubt killed them all off, and all that’s left of their labor is a few catacombs, corridors exposed to the elements like so many empty hotel rooms when the first condemned wall comes down.

Sound

On the other side of these white brick walls there is the constant whining hum of the highway, interrupted now and again by the down-shifting of a tractor trailer, a jarring, bumpy roar. Closer in are the birds, their chirps and songs and twitters. Some are stationary, perched on branch or roof or railing. Others fly overhead, letting their cry trail behind, and down through the springtime air to land here, in my ear. The leaves above me are disturbed by a bird or squirrel or light, little breeze. There is the quiet crunch of gravel as I shift in my seat. Add finally, my own, echoey breathing, like a creature’s in a cave–deep and heavy and filling my head with a whispery, rhythmic sound.

Smell

This is the soft smell of spring. Of warmer air, sweetened by sweeping over fields of alfalfa and meadows of flowers and fresh, unassaulted, now and again reaching up with a wave to make a snatch at the breeze. This is the smell of almost-summertime. Of air baked just slightly to bring out its scent, subtle, refreshing, distracting. It is the smell of sunshine-warmed grasses and someone’s lotion, the perfume activated from heat. It is the smell of the same temperature of my nostrils, unoffensive and smooth and familiar. It is not the smell of earth or fire or favorite food. It is that fresh-air smell that reminds me I am alive, and it is good.

Touch

My foot presses hard into gravel, the ground beneath it sold and firm. The planks on the bench holding me up press into the backs of my legs; the planks against my back are unyielding. Earth using all of her forces, all of her pull, to keep me as close to her core as possible.

Foot pressed hard

into gravel,

ground beneath so

solid and firm

 

Planks pressing into

backs of legs,

unyielding

 

Earth keeping me

close

to her

core.

 

Taste

Sour taste of

leftover gum

bitter bile

on back of tongue

Tongue snugged up to the

roof of my mouth

Mouth filled with tongue and teeth and gums

Teeth slightly parted

or grinding in thought,

pressing together the

stress of the day

Lips closed, but lightly,

concealing it all,

holding back morsels too

juicy to tell

 

Rough texture of taste buds

like sandpaper fuzz

Smooth underside of tongue

slick, shiny, wet

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Prompt: Writing from the Senses

  1. What a fabulous exercise! That’s wonderful that you guys have (had?) a student literary magazine. We tried to start one back when I was in highschool, but administration promptly shut it down. Now that I’ll soon be working in an school setting through AmeriCorps I’m planning on seeing if I can start something of that sort as a sort of side-but-related project. Might wanna try out this exercise if I can get the thing off the ground. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I hope you can! It’s such a great experience for the students–and it will be for you, too. How sad that your administration shut the lit mag down when you were a student. Hopefully, you can give your students the experience you wanted! I will be posting prompt ideas regularly, so check back–and good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

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