Writing With All Of Your Senses

I just want to start by saying that I’m not here to give you writing tips. If you’re after tips, go read the blogs of actual published writers not some hack with a keyboard that could be telling you anything. No, I’m not here to give you advice on how to write well. I’m here to show you a glimpse of my writing process. Do with it as you will.

Okay, now that we’ve got that bit out of the way, on to the fun stuff.

I’m a writer who needs stuff. I’ve always admired those writers who can write anywhere, who don’t need material things. They write on the back of credit card bills in a cafe. They write entire novels in a 50p notebook with a biro that’s threatening to run out. They’re perfectly happy with the fact that this writing obsession of theirs doesn’t cost them a fortune in specialised equipment. But I’m not.

I need a solid desk and a chair. I need to show up every single day at said desk and chair with my old battered laptop and an array of notebooks and folders and stationary to help me going. I need moodboards, and books, and Jane Austen cushions. I need mugs with tacky writerly slogans like “If you upset me I’ll put you in my next book” or “Editing in Progress”. I need framed book quotes and Funko Pop figures. I need stuff.

But this applies to more than just novelty merchandise and stationary. I need physical things to help me write certain characters. It instantly helps me focus on the task at hand. I believe that if you write with as many of your senses as you can, those senses will transfer to the reader as well.


The easiest sense to work with is smell.

One of my characters is described as having a home that smells like sage. When I’m writing scenes that take place in her house, I like to melt my Yankee Candle Sage Tartlet, and I feel like I’m there with her.

Or say that one of the scenes takes place at Christmas, I’ll burn my apple and cinnamon candle and I’ll feel so festive I have to stop myself from breaking out the decorations.

The next best sense to work with is sound.

A lot of writers listen to music whilst they write. I’m one of the few though that need absolute silence in order to write, so I find that listening to music right BEFORE I write to be helpful in getting into the right mood. The best is songs without lyrics, that way you won’t find yourself half way through Chapter Four with the lyrics to “Hips Don’t Lie” playing on a constant loop in your head. Although sometimes certain characters remind you of certain songs, or certain scenes will. Music can be very evocative, so sometimes it’s worthwhile mentioning certain songs in your actual writing.

Of course, not all sound is music. There’s a website called www.rainymood.com that plays rain sounds. It can be quite theraputic on days when everyone is in the house and making noise. Or maybe the scene you’re writing takes place in the rain, it can help. YouTube is also a goldmine for other sounds that you might like to hear that relate to your work. Such as animal sounds, traffic sounds. Whatever it is that you need.

Next stop on the tour of the senses is sight.

This is the easiest one I think. I always have a pinboard right at eye level on my desk. It has drawings of characters on it, important symbols, a floor plan of the manor house my characters stay in as well as markers for where everyone’s rooms are. I have important texts that are referred back to and things that I find inspiring such as a JKR meme I made for myself and a few writerly quotes. I also try to make my desk as visually appealing as possible and free from clutter. A tidy mind and all that. My Series Bible is also very visual and always within reach.

Next up–touch.

This one slightly links to sight and works in a similar way but is more linked to my characters. One of my characters always wears a battered old leather jacket, so I like to wear my mom’s old biker jacket from the 80s when I write those scenes. I can smell the leather, so it links to smell also, but it helps with that character.

Another of my characters collects crystals so I find it helpful to have those around to touch and look at as I’m writing. If it’s Christmas, I sometimes put on a red santa hat whilst I write.

The last sense is of course, taste. I have to admit, I don’t really use this one when I’m writing (unless you count the endless supplies of coffee and biscuits). But it could be applied in the same way as the other senses.

I guess the point is I like to try and immerse myself as much in my fictional world as I can. None of them are compulsions, they’re all done for fun and not for a minute would I claim that I can’t write without them, they’re just things that I find help. Afterall, writing is such a headache at times, why not make it fun whenever you can?

I know that some reject the idea of inspiration, and in a way I can see where they’re coming from–you can’t wait around for inspiration to strike, you must write even when you don’t feel inspired. But at the same time I see no issue in trying to help the process along a little.

Write however the fuck you want to write. Be whatever kind of writer you want to be. Don’t let anyone try to tell you that writing has to be a miserable job, as if you’re sitting in a cubicle office all day doing monotonous work. Sure, it’s hard, and sure, there are times when I would rather be doing anything other than writing, but at the end of the day, you are the creator of worlds. Writing is an uphill struggle most of the way, but you’re in a beautiful country and from up here you can see how breathtaking the world can be. (I’m pretty sure I just paraphrased Miley Cyrus- The Climb but ah well).



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