On a recent walk, my kids noticed how much Sophie, our cockapoo, uses her nose and ears. It’s first with nose and ears, not eyes, that she notices that cottontail bunny or crinkling leaf or sweet clover. She even sniffs out long forgotten, and apparently smelly, tennis balls, hidden deep in our pachysandra.
Just for fun, my kids and I sometimes close our eyes and try to soak up the world from Sophie’s perspective. When we do, it’s amazing how heightened our others senses become. Here are some of the things we’ve noticed: flags flapping, gate hinges creaking, wild onion smells so pungent you can almost taste them, fresh coffee wafting out the neighbor’s kitchen window, the tickle of beetle legs on bare skin, and the cool caress of wet grass between our toes.
As writers for young children I think we could all benefit from closing our eyes sometimes. I don’t mean burying our heads in the sand so that our writing is sappy and disconnected from reality. Of course not. What I mean is that my writing, at least, tends towards the visual if I’m not careful. But when I’m intentional (and close my eyes) my other senses kick in and my writing is enriched. Using multi- sensory imagery is especially important in picture books and other illustrated pieces, such as poems for magazines, where the illustrations already provide plenty of visual detail. So, go ahead, close your eyes and feel those other senses kick in. That’s my plan this week. Happy writing all!