Select Page

During the first week, I asked you to really notice your senses – how things smell, how they taste. I asked you to notice it during the day and to use your senses to guide your writing a little more.

Senses are also the gateway to memory, to being present in the past.

Today, I invite you to use your senses to step into memory.

Begin with your feet. Take your shoe off. Stand on the ground – outside if you can, but if you can’t do that, inside is fine too. Wriggle your toes. Try to lift your toes, one at a time. Lift your big toe, and press it back down. Do the same with your other toes. Then notice the press of your heel against the earth. Press the ball of your foot into the ground. Breathe.

Feel that connection: skin to ground, foot to earth. Try now to recall, through your skin, a memory of being barefoot as a child. Any memory. Take a breath. Don’t plan it, simply let the memory of your skin guide you. Feel the soles of your feet; wait. Can you remember being barefoot? What does your skin recall? Hot sand? Sticky tarmac? Gritty linoleum? Heavy shoes? When you have something, begin to jot it down. Begin with the sensations: feet, heat, ouch, lifting heels, running, bindies, sprinkler!
It doesn’t need to make sense. Not yet.

Once you’ve noted down some sensations, revisit the moment. What else is there? Okay, bindies, lifting feet. What else? Don’t worry for now about story – we’re simply after sensory memory. Something else might come – for instance a splash of sunshine, someone shouting. Begin to jot it all down, feeling free to write in sentences this time. Follow it for as long as you can.

Then, later, try to think about the sense of smell. When you think about a particular year of your childhood – say, the age of eight, or twelve – what are the smells that you associate with that time? Smell is often particularly powerful in relation to memory. Still, to this day, when I smell coconut oil, I am returned to the beaches of my adolescence, can feel again the sticky oil on my skin, can smell the Chiko rolls, can hear the Puberty Blues-ish conversations. And then, miraculously – I am there. I connect to that awkward teenager again.

So, what is the scent of your childhood? Begin loosely: jot down whatever smells come to your mind. You are likely to find that once you think of one, another will follow (I thought of coconut oil, it immediately led me to that greasy smell of Chiko Rolls. And now I’m smelling, as though I am there, hot chips and vinegar mixed with seasalt …

Enter the memory, be in the memory, by entering via the senses. Then, begin to write it. Again, don’t worry about this leading you into a story, not yet. When we follow sensory recall, we can follow the thread organically – the memory might become a story, it might become a lie. But here’s the thing: when it is time for you to write a moment of character memory (and you will need to do that, sometime), or a moment of your character inhabiting anything – whether that character is you, or a person you have invented – infusing the moment with sensory memory will bring the writing to life. And allowing yourself to recall your rich and lustrous life through the prism of the senses? This will deepen your pleasure in your own life, and deepen your ability to be in your present as well as in your past.

Today’s prompt is…


Write about receiving an unexpected gift