Writing with all your senses

I attended TBEX Cancun this year and had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a writing workshop with legendary travel writer Don George. Over the course of two incredible days, we learnt as much as we could from Don, absorbing his every word, imbibing his personal experiences on storytelling, as he generously shared his wisdom and insights on how one can better the art of travel writing.

One of the first exercises Don made us work on was to try and write with all our senses. Human beings are very visual. All too often, we tend to describe what we are seeing since descriptive visual narrations come easily. But in order to transport the reader to the place being described, it is important to harness the potential of all the 5 different senses, including hearing, smell, taste, touch as well as sight. So it is important to close your eyes as you prepare to write and observe how all your senses are reacting to a place. The key questions to ask are – what do you hear, what do you feel, what do you taste and what do you smell? When you close your eyes, a whole new set of words and creative descriptions becomes accessible. Phrases and words which you wouldn’t have thought to use earlier now flow naturally as you attempt to capture and describe each new sensation.

Here is my attempt at this exercise. Do not scroll down to see the visual cue yet! A fun thing to do as a reader is to read this paragraph and try imagining the place I’m describing with all your five senses.

Exercise #1 – Write a paragraph (150-200) words describing a place using all senses.

A light breeze caresses tall coconut trees as I sit here on the outdoor patio. The sun is scorching hot at midday, yet twittering birds fly about with abandon. A veil of tropical heat and humidity hangs over me as I squint my eyes to peek at the shimmering ocean in the distance. The calm sea is striped with shades of sea green and turquoise blue. An airplane thunders high through cotton candy clouds floating above. For a moment I daydream about flying through the skies myself. I close my eyes and take a deep breath expecting to smell the ocean but grassy odors from the well manicured lawn fill my nostrils. I can taste the salty sea on my lips until I realize it’s my own perspiration. Although I can’t hear the roar of the ocean, I attempt to sense it in the distance. But the strain of faraway music wakes me from my reverie and my rumbling stomach brings me back to the reality of being hungry. The doorbell rings and voila, lunch is here.

Can you guess where I am as I write this?

Does this piece transport you as a reader to the place I’m describing?

Do you approach your writing the same way?


Here’s the visual cue –

Cancun_Resort_TBEXMoon Palace resort in Cancun, Mexico

The next time you are writing, it could be about anything – a place, an experience, a food, an activity, a destination – try making a conscious effort to engage all your senses as you capture the essence of where you are and see what a difference it makes! Thank you Don George for this invaluable lesson.

Happy Writing,

~ Trupti

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