Lee Martin. Martin writes both fiction and nonfiction and teaches in the MFA program at Ohio State. The following exercise is a simplified version of one he has used with his advanced undergraduate creative nonfiction students. You can find his version here if you wish.
1. Locate yourself in the natural world.
2. Sketch in the sensory details of the place. Take in your surroundings. What do you see and feel? Now close your eyes. What sounds stand out? Can you distinguish specific scents?
3. Let those details lead you to a statement that expresses a mood. This is simplest if you go ahead and use the word "feel" in your statement. The way the leaves whisper high above my head makes me feel wistful, wishing to be up there among them, sharing secrets. Or Far away a dog howls for attention, making me feel lonely.
4. Carry that mood inward. Make statements about what being in that place is like for you. Martin suggests: Being in this place makes me feel/wonder/think/question. . . .
5. Come back to one of the details of the place, perhaps a detail that you featured in the first step of this activity. This time find something new in that detail. Martin suggests, for instance: I keep coming back to the sight/sound/smell of. . . . Why does that detail stand out for you?
Putting yourself into the natural world, allowing yourself to see and experience it more deeply, can open you – and your writing - in ways that may surprise you. Or even trigger an idea for a brand new project.
Come back Friday to meet an author who turned a close encounter with nature into a joyful and educational picture book.
P.S. You can still enter our contest to win a copy of Sonya Sones' new novel in verse, To Be Perfectly Honest. Click here!