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Sensory Overload in Doha – Reminded me to always use the five senses when writing.

During a recent trip to the fruit, vegetable, plant and animal souk in Doha, Qatar, the memory of a workshop I took with Jo Parfitt on adding SPICE to your writing came flooding back.  Readers don’t have the benefit of experiencing the situation in person, standing next to you, so it’s our responsibility as writers to put all the senses to work when bringing a reader along with us in our story (whether fiction, non-fiction, narrative, memoir or even business writing).

Come with me to Doha…
As we entered the first section of the sprawling warehouse, I was assaulted by foreign smells that at first made me wrinkle my nose and wave my hand over my face.  Then I reminded myself of the durian fruit I had eaten in Malaysia that smelled like poo and dirty socks but once past the olfactory sense, tasted sweet and had a smooth and silky texture.  So, I paused, closed my eyes, and inhaled deeply.  I realized that there wasn’t just one smell.  I took another deep breath and started to separate each one…oh my!  There was jasmine.  The aroma transported me back to my bedroom in Fort Lauderdale where there was a night blooming jasmine tree right outside our window.  Another whiff and I caught a scent of lavender, my favorite scent when enjoying a massage combined with aroma-therapy. 

I had lost sight of Pam and Bob in my reverie so I opened my eyes and continued walking and inhaling as I went, glancing down each aisle in search of my friends.  We were early so the vendors were just unloading their wares off the back of their dented, half-ton pick-up trucks.  The sound of the wooden crates scraping against the concrete floors of the warehouse was like nails on a chalkboard but I turned my attention back to my nose and focused on my scent-hunting mission.  Orange blossom!  Again, I was transported back to Florida, where oranges reign supreme.  I imagined myself in an orange orchard.  I followed my nose toward the scent and there was Bob negotiating with one of the vendors.  I asked what it was and, sure enough, it was a miniature orange tree in full bloom.

Could you imagine yourself right there with us?  Our next stop was the animal souk and the sights and smells weren’t quite as pleasant so I’ll let you conjure up your own senses on that one.  Suffice it to say, it was a fabulous afternoon and once I stilled my mind I was truly able to absorb my surroundings using, sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste. I now have a sticky note on the wall in front of my computer with those five simple words.  I don't jam my writing with all five each and every time...only the ones that add the right flavor.


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