At some point in my life, each and every one of my senses has been adversely affected by ill health.
I always had vision issues, but truly began losing my eyesight in my twenties. By my late thirties, I had gone blind. It was only through six surgeries that doctors at the University of Michigan were able to restore any use of my sight.
To this day my vision is impaired, and only useful under very specific, controlled circumstances.
There was a time in 2010 when I was so ill that I lost my senses of smell and taste completely, or worse— at times they were tainted and everything smelled and tasted horrible. Again, several surgeries and additional treatments were required to correct the problems causing this.
As a stroke survivor who also suffers neuropathic pain, my sense of touch is distorted as well. Due to a rare genetic condition I live with widespread, chronic pain; at times the slightest touch can cause a shocking jolt of discomfort, and that is something that I cope with every day.
Lastly, there have been times when medication side effects resulted in my hearing becoming temporarily muffled— a truly terrifying experience for me, because of all my senses, hearing is the one that I most fear losing. Even after having gone completely blind for a time. Without hearing there can be no music, and music feeds my soul.
What could this laundry list of ailments and personal experiences possibly have to do with writing, you ask?
I will answer simply that these things have changed the way that I write. Forever.
Once you’ve written while blind, typing as best you can (and having to sort out the typos later on) you become much more attuned to the physical surroundings you are writing about, because you are not distracted by the actual environment that you’re in.
Are you having difficulty picturing a room or setting for a scene that you’re writing? I highly recommend going somewhere quiet and closing the door, and then closing your eyes as well. Start imagining the room, or the trees and grass…the sand if you’re writing about a desert. The grand marble floors, if you’re writing about a palace.
Take yourself out of your physical surroundings by turning off your vision and you may find it easier to imagine yourself where your characters need to be.
Consider next how the place would sound. If it is that grand marble-floored ballroom, how would the sound of footsteps echo off the walls up to the seemingly endless heights of the ceiling? Or would the sound be muffled by a series of fine, fringed rugs leading into the space?
Once you have those parts of the setting established, try to bring in your other senses as well. Would the room be cold, because of its vastness? Would it smell of food set out on long banquet tables, or perhaps like the gigantic flower arrangements scattered throughout?
Finally, if there is an occasion to taste something— or even if you just smell a very strong fragrance— remember that sometimes you can taste it as well. See if it’s appropriate to use this sense to add depth to your character’s experience.
If you can incorporate as many of the senses as possible into your writing, you will make the experience that much richer and more realistic for the reader. At least, that has been my fortunate experience.
If nothing else, I hope that these reminders to use all your senses in your writing will remind you also to appreciate each and every one in your daily life! Each is a blessing, and something is lost from living in their absence. Believe me, I know. So never take for granted the glory of a fiery sunset, the sweet fragrance of a rose, or the comforting aroma of a home-cooked meal.
Tomorrow your senses could change— and how wonderful it is to have the memory of the way they used to be during times when they are compromised. That is something I can also tell you for sure.
"What is a heart if not the ultimate clockwork?"
Abigail’s young life was saved by the kindness of strangers: Schuyler Algernon, the man who found her collapsed on cold city streets, and Quinn Godspeed, the doctor who risked everything by breaking the law to keep her fragile heart beating.
As the truth about what she’s become and her feelings for her saviour overtake her, Abigail is forced to ask what constitutes life, living, and what dark secrets are contained within Godspeed’s past and the walls of Schuyler’s house.
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February Grace is a writer, artist, and poet who lives in Southeastern Michigan. She sings in key, plays by ear, and is more than mildly obsessed with colours, clocks, and meteor showers. GODSPEED is her debut novel.
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