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A Writing Exercise That Increases Awareness And Descriptive Skills
by Catherine Franz
Learning how to attach words to feelings requires time. Without a system that helps you monitor that time, the minutes or hours could feel unproductive. With the right exercise, you can use that time wisely, as well as save a lot of frustration.
Learning to apply the right words to our six senses is a top ingredient to the mixture of writing. Its language brings the reader into the story. All of us easily know how we feel, or what we're seeing (okay, most of the time), what we're hearing, smelling, tasting, and sensing, and can usually explain it in 50 words if pushed to do it. But, how do you describe it in one or two words without the pushing?
Also, by beginning with good material, the remaining part of the writing process becomes easier. This exercise will help you improve. This is a simple exercise that you can do anywhere, anytime, in a space of minutes or longer. You can practice Monday mornings in the garden, the doctor’s waiting room, or in the lunchroom. It can last as long as a television commercial (oops those aren't short any longer), or more aggressively with a devoted 30-minutes a day. Whatever length of time or place you have, you will always be improving your skills.
You will want to sit while completing this exercise.
Okay, let's start with the most difficult part, your supplies -- paper and your writing instruments. Landscape, portrait, small, or regular size sheet of paper doesn't matter. I define what paper size to use by the amount of time available and my location. If I'm mobile, I use my small journal. If I'm at my desk or at home, I use a regular sized piece of paper. Sometimes lined, sometimes not. Sometimes the exercise flows over to two or three sheets. Don't limit the experience by paper size. Have fun with the recording tools as well. Experimentation is the key to our curiosity. And, curiosity is the foundation of a writer.
Draw a circle on the page and place your name in the center. Large, small, in color, black, or blue, again it doesn't matter. Use whatever flips your pancakes at that moment. In other words, whatever feels good at the time.
Your objective is to describe your five senses, six if you have that gift, with words. Write the words that express that sense in the space inside the circle randomly around your name.
Here is how you would use this exercise to increase environmental awareness and descriptive skills. Write your words in the location on the paper relevant to the direction it appears. For example: I'm sitting outside my office on a 9th floor balcony at the moment, I hear a heavy humming from the tires on the wet pavement below and birds chirping above me to the right. I would place the words for the tires on the bottom left and the chirping on the upper right of my page.
Here are nine prompts to help you expand your experience:-
- Write words describing your atmosphere--the quality of air.
- What are the clouds doing? Can you see animals in their shapes?
- The temperature of your location.
- The source of light and its quality.
- Where are people standing or sitting?
- Shadows, are they're any? Where and how do they fall?
- Predominant colors, wall colors, wallpaper, molding, chair railing, textured ceiling.
- What do you smell? Using comparisons are a great way to relate to your reader i.e. 'The air feels like just getting out of the fogged shower stall'.
- Are there other people around you? How do they smell? Their clothes, their shoes? Guess what they might do for a living. Are they dressed like someone on their way to work, home, a mum, dad, baker . . ?
After you are comfortable describing your environment, spice the exercise up another notch. Compare your descriptive words to something else. For example: The room you are sitting in feels like a sauna with my clothes on.
Continue spicing up the exercise to increase your awareness and descriptive powers--use people and objects. Since you are most familiar with yourself, begin there.
After practicing on the most familiar subject, yourself, create a list of other familiar people in your life. Then sort the list from most familiar to least. Continue down the list. Somewhere during these lists and practice sessions, you will begin to feel more comfortable with your skill.
You can continue taking the exercise to another level. This time you are ready to expand your awareness and adaptation to words. Visit the local shopping centre; sit in the food court for a smorgasbord of new enriching thought-to-word experiences.
Here are 11 prompts to help you expand your levels:-
- Describe what you are wearing.
- How does your body feel?
- What are your hands doing?
- How does your throat feel?
- How are you holding your mouth?
- Eye movement
- How do you feel in general, in detail?
- Name your mood. Does it have a flavour and colour?
- Describe your feelings with reference to music. A certain song or type of music.
- How does your hair smell, clothes, the chair you're sitting on, the book you're reading?
Be patient with yourself while practicing. This exercise isn't the easiest to complete, however, it is the most effective. Even if you aren't a writer, this exercise will help you triple your awareness skills in a short time period. This exercise also helps police officers, speakers, judges, attorneys, or anyone else that uses their awareness skills to see and put it into words. This is also a NLP--neurolinguistics programming skill--for those aware of this process.
Catherine Franz provides writing and marketing assistance to individuals who want to write and businesses that want to increase business. For more ideas and programs, visit The Abundance Center.