I'm talking about life induced writing "vacations." Caregiving. Illness. Life transitions. Events so transforming you forget the joy you once found in the written word. Life and its pull and push of the tyranny of busyness.
The problem with taking a break is it isn't always as simple as pen to paper. Like all good relationships, breaking up is hard to do. But making up can be ten times harder. :) But oh so good.
Like a kiss after a fight with your beloved. Intense, passionate, and perhaps tinged with a hint of...longing, regret and a sassy dose of “I told you so.”
The sniff of Polo Red. That half pout with a leftover dose of partially simmered anger. The before-bed linger of Listerine with just a touch of this morning’s Hazelnut roast leftover. His dress shirt wrinkled and slightly damp from the walk he took in the mist to cool off his temper.
Your senses form the memories of a great make-up kiss with hubby. We know detail makes writing sing and brings us into the MC’s world.
We grow in our writing as we learn to bring these word pictures to life in the reader’s mind. In these last few months (my "making up" season with writing) I’ve recognized the need to be more conscious about living through my senses. As I focus on the sensory details, I find myself more intentional in both my writing and my day-to-day. Word count wasn't enough, I needed to find my inner creativity and the answer to that was right under my nose. :)
To lean into living we must let busy go, realizing it is the four letter word that captures our writing life in a chokehold. The urgent, the routines, the to-do list beckon to us and no doubt we must heed their call. Yet if we find the simple stillness in God’s presence first, we find he awakens us to the beauty that makes up the everyday world that we take for granted.
Here are some ways I’m waking up my senses:
-As a mom, I get caught in a rut, I’m trying to take my children to a new park every week. I’m trying to take in the landscape, stop and literally smell the flowers and notice the details of God’s world. Not always with a pen in hand, but with a thankful heart for all He has done for me.
-We are making regular nature walks part of our days. At least a few times a week, we find an area to wander and will observe squirrels scurry up trees, try to find lizards buried beneath the blades of grass, and watch the neighborhood hawk bring food to her nesting children. Sometimes we make these rounds with pen and paper to draw pictures.
As I gaze around noticing my father’s world and all he has created I marvel at his sovereignty and creativity.
-God created summer nights for the ears. The chirp of crickets and the hum of lightning bugs entertain us as we catch lightning bugs and listen to the laughter of neighborhood children. The sounds bring back summer nights of youth, carefree times of innocence and fun with a heavy dose of joy.
-Pandora’s free stations enable me to create a new world before sleeping. Ella Fitzgerald croons a nightclub ditty that evokes my heartsick main character. Classical harp songs bring to mind heaven and scenes of nature that catch my breath.
Listening to the joy created in a song formed by nature or man causes me to rejoice to create a new song in the Lord through my writing.
-With some Christmas money I bought myself a Chemex beaker and filters for my coffee. I love making a clean cup of joe, worth the short wait! Coffee is an experience, not a means to fill your body with energy beans. I feel the same way about a good cup of Earl Grey in my grandmother’s violet tea cup. It’s meant to be enjoyed! We look at coffee as a way to add hustle to our day, today let’s stop and smell the coffee (or your beverage of choice).
-Wildflower bouquets bring a piece of the season into your home. Some of our best memories are formed around flowers. Engagements. Senior prom, weddings. Our life celebrations and even death are memorialized by peonies and roses.
So much of memory is connected to smell. Spend some time remembering your own life, it will help you visit your character’s world.
-Where can I find the best biscuit in my city? How about prize-winning fried chicken? I love asking questions like these and taste testing to find the answers. Just as I notice there are subtle details that make the difference between good and exceptional barbecue (the secret’s in the sauce, honey) so paying attention to the little things makes a difference in my writing.
-I love eating fresh for the season. Summer is made for salted watermelon, street corn with queso fresco and cilantro, fair food and picnics. New food, new ideas.
God created us to love food in its proper balance. Learning to layer detail is a crucial skill in writing just as it adds complexity to the best dishes.
-We love sleeping in flannel or silk sheets, depending on the season.
-I try to spend at least a few minutes each day petting each of my cats. It is therapeutic for both of us.
God created a world of texture, spend some time luxuriating your senses and enjoy his workmanship.
I’m thankful for the world God has created for us to explore. Our five senses are a gateway into enjoying everyday and seeing God’s presence in a sometimes stressful and busy world.
Julia Reffner lives in central Virginia and enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction. You can find her work in Library Journal magazine and at Wonderfully Woven, a devotional site for women.