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Barbara Clough

On sensual discovery

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I read something in the Sept. 6 issue of the New Yorker that intrigued me. Here's the text: "The students were instructed to sample nine types of caviar and a variety of olive oils, and do a blind identification of meats that had had their fat removed." (Sweet Memor, by Madhur Jaffrey, originally published August 19 & 26, 2002, p. 35n of the current issue.) This started me thinking about sensory detail in writing and the use of all sensory detail. I tend to use the strongest and most obvious ones: site, hearing, touch, but smell and taste seem to get less attention, at least in my brain and in my writing. So since there are 5 primary senses (and yes sometimes a sixth sense - but that's for another blog post), I decided that each day deserved a focused sense. This is how I've decided to break it down:

    • Monday - Smell
    • Tuesday - Taste
    • Wednesday - Hearing
    • Thursday - Seeing (thus the walking around DC)
    • Friday - Feeling

There's no particular reason for the order, just the Tuesday-tasting and Friday-feeling had an alliteration that would make it easier to remember. And that's not to say, for instance, Friday (Trevor Noah show) can't overlap with Tuesday (Indian food here in DC). But on Wednesday, I'll know, remind myself, practice concentrating on what I hear, even the sounds that annoy me or pique my interest or confound me.  

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Barbara Clough

Writing about writing

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My writing discipline has been at best inconsistent this summer. I am going to blame it on selling my house, moving into a new apartment in a new city and trying to find the grocery store while avoiding the shooting gallery around the block from me, and sailing. In New England, if we get a good summer, we maybe have June, July & August to sail. May is - well May. Sometimes it feels like steaming hot August with no wind and broiling sun or rainy and windy like April, when I can't sail the Flying Scots because they only have a centerboard and capsizing into the 60 degree is never fun. So every decent weekend I was either moving house or sailing or both. Some mornings up at 5 AM, the sky white and flat, the sun a brassy ball with the smoke from wildfires a continent away.

Now, I am settled. Somewhat. My life is mostly still in cardboard boxes, although the flattened stack at the end of my hallway continues to grow as the full boxes lining my hallway diminish. My writing discipline is beginning to take shape and my reading discipline didn't really slip too much. Today, I took an hour to read short stories online, to research journals for potential publication, to tear fiction out of the New Yorker Magazine and do my own limited analysis of what made it a good or not-good story. Or just a story I liked or didn't like. That worked for me or didn't work for me. And I realize that everything I read, everything I write, everything I post, is being filtered in the same way through someone else's head. Like, don't like, keep, toss, works, wanders, prevaricates, loses the plot, dribbles off to nothing, ends with a bang. But I keep writing. And reading. And so do you. 

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Barbara Clough, Tuesday, 10 Aug 2021, 22:00)
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