Manipulating Our Surroundings (Roxann Delaney)

Environment and all the things continually going on around us help set our moods.  Those moods then affect how we react and what we do in any given situation.   Whether we can do something about that--manipulation--is up to us.

Writers and others who create can be especially affected--both good and bad--by their senses.  There are many ways each of those five senses work for or against us.  Our job is to learn how to best control and use them to our advantage.

HEARING  --  Most writers have a problem with noise distracting them and keeping them from the concentration necessary to string words together that make sense.  (Yes, we can string words together that don't make sense!)  That's the downside of noise.

But there's an upside to noise, too.  With the ease of downloading music and even making our favorite tunes portable in every sense of the word, writers are creating music playlists to set the mood and tone of their characters and storylines, not only for one or two scenes, but throughout an entire book.  For instance, Deborah Harkness, author of the best-selling A Discovery of Witches, posted the playlist of all the songs she listened to while writing the book on Facebook.  But music not only can set the mood of our stories, it can also set our mood to write.  A bouncy, fun tune can get us moving, when before, we may have been battling inertia.  If nothing else, turning on the radio can evoke random emotions and help lift our moods.

SEEING -- Writers tend to work with visions in their minds, and then translate those visions into words that convey them to readers.  I think this is why Pinterest has become so popular.  Writers use them as motivation and for ideas, setting the mood in their mind to write a character or scene, while others use it as a way of communicating without words.  As Napoleon Bonaparte said, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  My favorite type of pictures are those that evoke peaceful feelings.  Not only pictures, but colors affect our moods.  Think of your favorite color and how it makes you feel.  Chances are, that feeling is pretty much universal.

SMELLING -- Nearly any store you walk into these days has a large display of scents, aromas, and ways to use them.  Incense grew in popularity in the 60's and 70's.  Scented candles quickly followed throughout the '80's and 90's.  Scented oils followed, with different ways of diffusing them into the air.  Peppermint can perk you up, while Lemon is known to help with alertness.  Even a few companies have added scents in their ventilation systems for better productivity.  Can't sleep?  Try Lavender to help relax and drift off to sleep.  Don't like Lavender?  Try a hint of Jasmine.  And if you're a disbeliever of how effective scents can be, think of what happens when you smell cookies baking. ;)

TOUCHING -- We don't often pay a lot of attention to our tactile sense, but our body is more aware of it than we realize.  Hot, cold, smooth, rough.  Kittens wouldn't be so lovable if they weren't soft.  Nobody would want to go down a slide made of sandpaper.  Some people find velvet disturbing, while others don't care for satin.  Do you sleep better on crisp sheets in the summer than on flannel?  Do you prefer wearing a well-worn t-shirt to a brand new one?  I bought a new throw this winter, and although it isn't thick, it's softer than any I've ever had or found.  It was originally for my bed, but somehow it made it into the living room, where every one of the grandkids has taken control of it at one time or another.  It's soft.  It's warm.  And it's comforting.  Even the cat loves to knead it with his claws and sucks on it!

TASTING --  The first thing I think of when I think of how taste (food) affects us is chocolate.  It isn't necessarily the taste itself that makes it so beneficial to mood, but the serotonin that's produced in our bodies when we eat it can lift our spirits.  And after hearing last night on the news that a study has found that chocolate also increases our metabolism, increasing the burning of its own calories, well, I'm not going to give it up.  But chocolate/sweet isn't the only taste that can have an affect on us.  There are five elements of taste perception:  salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami (savoriness). For most of us, we've craved each of them, at one time or another.  Sometimes we choose a particular food or snack because it comfort us.

Just for fun, try eating in the dark.  Dark dining, where restaurants serve their food in the dark, has become a trend in several large cities.  While I'm not sure I'd enjoy dropping my food in my lap at a restaurant--even if the lights are out--it might be fun to try it in the dark at home...and alone.

Take some time to think about your senses and how each of them affects your mood.  In time, you'll learn how to manipulate your moods with your senses, whether it's tasting, seeing, hearing, touching, or smelling, and use them to your advantage.  And don't forget to use those five senses in your writing to make it come alive!

Why did I choose the blue and black Yin Yang?  Because I like it! ☺


Joan Vincent said...

Rox, A great refresher course on our five senses. Actually thinking about them, for me, gets lost in day to day living but they are very important to me as writers. I need to be aware of them in my characters as they will make a character much more vivid to the reader. I think I'll print this one out and hang it by my desk.

Melissa Robbins said...

Awesome post, Rox. I love playlists. My husband bought more music and I tried to write to it, but it just didn't feel right. I had to go back and listen to my playlists.

I struggle with smell, because I never know how to describe certain colognes or perfumes unless they have a distinct smell, like roses.

On CSI, someone murdered a person in one of those dark restaurants.

Anonymous said...

Senses are really important to me, probably because I'm really attuned to mine, except sight. All that could be because I'm blind as a bat and no one noticed until I was 12. Anyway, wonderful post.