Sunday, March 4, 2012

Inspiration, Discipline and Senses

My last post dealt with lingering in the creative moment with the muse for a while before putting fingers to keys, how doing so can pull from the imagination the details one needs for full sensory writing.  After all, writing is more than just seeing things and hearing what people say.  Well written pieces--at least pieces of any length--should stimulate more than just our sense of sight and sound.  We're also creatures of smell and taste, and perhaps most importantly, touch.  More often than not, it's touch that elicits the most pronounced emotional reactions within us.

A gentle touch, hold my hand, a shoulder to cry on, a tender kiss, a comforting embrace, all these phrases and so many more are proof of our need for physical contact.  I'll take it a step further and claim that these other senses can bring more life to what we write than merely painting images of landscapes, buildings and clothing in the readers' minds can ever do. 

Writing, especially in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, so often forgoes contact between individuals apart from combat or the occasional budding romance between the protagonist and her main squeeze.  I believe readers want more than the infrequent kiss or caress.  They want to feel the sun bearing down on them, feel how wet the grass and weeds are after the rain, and the biting cold of ice and snow.  They want to smell the bitter coffee, taste the overly-spiced tea and burnt mutton the cook at the inn served.  They want to feel the stiffness of stale bread and smell and taste the globs of butter used to make it palatable.

Lingering in the creative moment not only tells what was served for dinner, but how it smelled and tasted.  It calls to mind how the patrons received the meal.  We not only see the server, but smell her perfume and feel the itch in our nostrils as it makes us sneeze.  We not only notice what the other customers are wearing, but empathize with them for the despondency on their faces and the tone of sadness in their voices.

Upon reading my last post a couple times, I realized how serene it seemed.  It came across as so casual and peaceful, yet it was written in brief minutes.  It wasn't rushed.  The thoughts and words just came easily that time.  Trust me, putting words on the page is often an arduous task.  I relish the moments when words flow like a rushing river, the moments when I can't type them fast enough for fear they'll be forever lost downstream.  That's when writing is easy.

The difficult moments are when we fight for each word, hold down the backspace key, highlight and delete, or click the New File button on the toolbar.  Those are the times when our discipline as writers must pick up where the muse leaves off.  The odd thing, for me anyway, is that the inspiration can still be there.  The imagination can still be running in overdrive.  We just can't phrase our thoughts in a way to satisfy our critical minds or adequately convey what we're trying so desperately to express.

Inspiration is a gift to writers.  You can't summon it at will.  It just comes.  And when it does, lingering in the moment enables you to evoke the senses that makes it real to the reader.  However, that lingering requires discipline.  And that discipline only comes with diligence and practice.  Take the time to linger, to be the protagonist, to be the antagonist, the silly sidekick or the single scene waitress.  Doing so, for me, opens a whole new perspective and that--quite often--fires the imagination that opens the dam's floodgates.


14 comments:

  1. You've touched on a very important part of writing that I wish there was more of, too. Want to bring me into a world fast? Lay on the sensory details. Great post. I appreciate your perspective on this topic.

    And I gave you a Shout-Out on my blog today. :)

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    1. Thanks for the comments and the Shout-Out. Neat idea you got there.

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  2. Good points. Writing well is hard work.

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    1. Yes it is. And Mom always said I hated hard work! LOL

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    1. Thanks! (Nice job with KateMarie too, by the way.)

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  4. Very true. I tend to focus more on auditory cues - what things sound like, and what people are saying. I neglect the other things in my writing. As a result, my writing tends to be sparse, and over-focused on the characters. Thanks for the reminder to remember all the other senses - it'll definitely help with word count goals, f'sho.

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    1. Well, Joseph, my writing is also often sparse though you'd never know it by word count. I spend so much time fretting over plotting issues that it pulls me out of the moment. I'm rather sketchy with description by nature anyway; all the struggling and fretting just makes it worse. :-)

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  5. Love your point about lingering in the moment of inspiration. I have moments where I linger in my writing, and other moments where I need to go back and expand on what's there-- to linger a bit more. It can be hard to balance lingering with pacing, but when it's done right, it's a fabulous experience!

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    1. Yes, the balance is crucial. Too much lingering in the moments of inspiration and you never write any of it down. Too much lingering away from it and you lose the details that enrich the story. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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  6. Inspiration is indeed a wonderful gift and comes in many different forms. Good luck with finishing your current draft. I look forward to reading about your journey.

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    1. Thanks for wishing me luck, Miranda! I'm going to need it. The all-important climax is nigh!

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  7. Good post. Makes me think of Priscilla Long's THE WRITER'S PORTABLE MENTOR--she talks a lot about sensory descriptions in that. It's helped me a lot with my prose.

    Good luck with the writing!

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    1. I've not read that yet. I'll have to add it to my list since you found it helpful. Thanks for wishing me luck! It's my first novel and you know how sentimental one gets over their first. :-)

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