Like Timothy Findley, I believe a writer must be willing to embarrass himself in the pursuit of the world and everything it has to offer. If I, as a writer, can engage my senses and emotions, then I can engage my readers as well.
The Blind Cat Exercise*
I try to get the writers in my workshops to engage their senses as much as possible. So, the exercise? Pretend, like Timothy Findley, to be a blind cat. Sniff everything in the spice rack. Run your hand over every piece of material you can find in your house. Take your socks off and walk over the bristly rug at your front door. Go squish your toes in the mud as you did as a child. Sit and really listen to the city sounds outside. Take in the news and allow your emotions to be truly engaged by the terrible, happy, boring, heart sobbing stories. Then turn the radio off and sit with those emotions awhile. Go to the fridge and taste an olive. But really taste it. Let it fill your mind. Then take notes about each of these experiences. What is this experience? What does it bring to mind? What memory does it elicit? What else is it like? Where does this smell take you? Sit with the experience a while and allow it to inspire you. Allow the world to fully engage you, so you can fully engage your reader. Write down what you discover. You’ll be amazed at how authentic the writing that comes out of this simple exercise is. And if you find it useful, as I do, I suggest you make it a regular exercise. I do this every day.
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*the Blind Cat Exercise originally appeared in The Writer's Gym edited by Eliza Clark.