Sensuous Writing Exercise

by Jenn on January 25, 2010

in Uncategorized

Dianne Jacob is a celebrated food writer who led a workshop at Food Blogger Camp on writing (which, by the way, I would LOVE to attend one of these someday).  While I did not go to Food Blogger Camp, I saw her post about the workshop and her writing contest, challenging people to write sensuously, or rather, about bringing the senses into one’s writing.  The goal was to “get readers to see it, smell it, hear it, touch it and taste it in their minds.”  While I didn’t win or even get a mention, I had a lot of fun with this exercise.  Here was my entry –

The chocolat aux noisettes morsel sat patiently, inviting, just waiting for me to embrace it with my lips. Already I can feel the outer shell melting in my hands, a grim reminder of its coming end. Subtly aromatic, the chocolate calls to me, whispering sweet nothings for my nose. Like a fine wine maturing into its prime, I bring it close and take a deep breath. My tongue dances as my taste-buds ache with anticipation. I open my mouth and begin to take a bite, liberating the soft delicate ganache imprisoned inside. An exploding concert of flavors and textures hits me, first the smooth creamy sweet of the chocolate and then the small crunch of lingering hazelnut bliss. Only I and the chocolate exist during our transient acquaintance. Then, all is silent. As suddenly as it began, the flavor quickly extinguishes, one last gift of pure joy.

This little 147 word paragraph seemed so easy to write until I actually sat down and tried to literally pry words out of my head and onto my laptop screen.  For all the effort I put in wracking my brain for words that just wouldn’t come, I might  as well have tried to pull the sword in the stone out of its merciless rock.  Let’s just say writing does not come naturally to me.  At least, not writing that requires abstract thought of any kind.  Maybe that is the scientist in me.  If you want to me describe a result of an experiment and its relevance in the scientific community, ok.  But then metaphor and simile don’t really find themselves at home in scientific literature (with good reason).  However, ask me to describe something as primal and emotional as the act of eating food, and I feel like I am sitting at my desk in 6th grade all over again writing those essays for standardized tests.

In fact, until this blog, I avoided writing at almost all costs.  I think my last actual writing class was in high school lol.  My past English teachers would probably cringe at that fact.  In college I did take a couple of great literature classes (afterall I do love to read), but I somehow managed to escape all of the writing ones, using my few electives on other topics that interested me more at the time (like statistics and math! oh yes I am a nerd).

Despite my lifelong aversion to what I have often envisioned as a rather tortuous task, over the course of this blog I have actually come to really enjoy writing.  There, I said it.  I like writing.  It’s still difficult for me.  But I love how words can be used to convey so many things (if you can find the right ones and put them in the right order), and how food is a constant in our lives that touches all the great moments worth writing about.  There is so much that I want to be able to articulate to you, the reader, and with time, albeit slowly, I feel like I am getting better and better at doing just that, and actually starting to find something of my voice and style.

Why do I write?  Why not just post a pretty picture and a recipe?  Because I love exploring the flavor of food.  Taste is such an ephemeral thing, which I think is why communicating it is so hard.  But it is essential to communicate that taste and the experience that surrounds the food, because while pictures are pretty, how else are you going to understand why I liked eating/cooking/serving what I did?  Food blogging, at least to me, is more than just putting up a recipe with a picture.  It’s about sharing and writing.  The writing should never be neglected in a blog, especially a food blog.  It is as important as any recipe or picture.

It doesn’t matter that I didn’t win.  Ok, it does matter.  I am sure winning some time with Dianne Jacob could have definitely helped me in a gazillion ways, probably more than I can even bring to mind at the moment.  But, for me, this little writing contest went beyond simply causing me to spend some time coming up with a paragraph about my favorite chocolate in the world (well, as of now – there are still I don’t know, about 20,000 more kinds here in Switzerland to try) – it helped me realize the importance that I place on quality writing, and helped remind me of my goals with this blog.  I hope my writing has improved since I started.  And, along with my cooking and my photography, I hope it continues to do so, if only so I can better talk about delicious food and their place in my life memories – so that you can see and understand a little more of me, and how cooking and eating find their way in so many other themes of this world, and in the end, maybe learn a little bit more about yourself in the process and make some memories of your own.

So thank you, Dianne Jacob, for hosting this contest.  My set of 147 words up there did a lot more than sit in your comments section as just another entry.  Somehow the process was completely inspiring and motivating.  I never expected that when I originally decided to enter, and it was an extremely pleasant surprise.


Lauren January 26, 2010 at 1:15 am

Beautiful Jenn. I didn’t enter the contest, but have definitely been trying to write more to the senses. Its beautiful how forming words together can create such an expression of emotion and ideas.

Elle (Bromography) January 26, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Love the spirit of this post! I also have a passion for the written word, even though I have not mastered it.

Dianne Jacob January 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Jenn, how wonderful to find that you were inspired by my contest. That’s the best response I could have hoped for, and your passion clearly comes through in your entry.

Please don’t worry about how writing does not come naturally. It comes naturally to almost no one! It’s all about the rewrite, rewrite rewrite. Just keep at it.

Lucky February 17, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Jenn Love, this is pure class.

There are so many writing challenges and contests out there such as NPR 3 minute fiction and the 3 day fiction contest all the way up to ScriptFrenzy which challenges you to write a 100 page screenplay in April and NaNoWriMo which is about writing a 50,000 word novellette in November.

The blog is showing a different side to you than most may have known and that is always a good thing

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