Connecting the Dots: Part 3

Using the 5 Senses to Overcome Writer's Block

Last week we explored Line, Color, Texture, and Mass as elements of clustering that will help us think of our nucleus word (heaven) in new and different ways.

This week we want to focus on the five senses: See, Hear, Taste, Touch, Smell. There’s going to be a bit of overlap between what your right brain generates here and the pearls it generated when you spun out Line, Color, Texture, and Mass last week. That’s Okay — in fact, it’s good! But resist the temptation to make too many connections between the overlapping “pearls” at this point. Each string needs to be pure, and for now, considered by itself.

Let’s stick with our nucleus word of “heaven.” I’m going to add a new string to my already-existing cluster. The pearl at the end of that string is going to have the word, “See.” Here’s what it will look like with your five new “pearls” in place:


See — 83% of everything you learn in your life you learn by seeing. Ask yourself, “what does heaven look like? When I think of heaven, what do I see?” Try to isolate the other senses and just focus on a vision of heaven.

Hear —  11% you learn by hearing. If heaven were reduced to a sound, what would that sound be? Would it be a sound from nature, a musical instrument, a machine? Try to pretend that the other senses do not exist and all you have available to you is the sense of hearing.

Smell — 3.5%. This one is fun! If all of the other senses were nonfunctional, what would the aroma of heaven be to you? Explore different categories. It could be a food, a flower, a perfume. Anything that has a scent.

Touch — 1.5%. Wow! We only learn 1.5% of all that we know through the sense of touch. That’s not to say touch is unimportant, only that it doesn’t account for much in terms of our being able to interpret and learn from our environment (remember the illustration of the two blind men and the elephant, one feeling it’s trunk and the other it’s tail, and coming up with radically different “interpretations” of what an elephant is). Of course “Touch” will overlap with “Texture” from our last exercise. That’s okay. If you could write reach out and touch heaven right now, what would it feel like?

Taste — 1%. We don’t learn much through taste. 99% of all that you know will NOT come via your taste buds. Still, it’s fascinating to think about what heaven might taste like, especially if all of the other senses are muted.


Spend a few minutes exploring each of the five senses. Again, isolate each sense. Pretend that the other senses are nonfunctional.

You are creating quite a string of “pearls.” Each one could constitute a nucleus all on its own! You might come up with a striking simile related to just one of the senses. The ultimate goal here is not to try to shoehorn in all of the senses to any given writing project, but to open you up to the possibilities contained in the senses as we explore them discreetly, and then in combination with one another.

Happy clustering!

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