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25 March 2022

Posted by Madeleine O'Beirne

The Sensory Process of Writing


There is something magical in those moments of anticipation that precede the act of writing, when we are making the time and clearing the space to put our words onto a page. It’s interesting to have the opportunity to reflect on such moments, and on the process of writing, to observe the senses that are stimulated as we write, as well as those that stimulate us to write.

Beyond my front room there is a constant stream of cars and buses and people passing by. It is never entirely silent here, but I have learned to create my own sense of quiet and stillness, to acknowledge and let go of the sounds that break through that stillness, to listen more carefully to the words that are gathering in my head. I think that, for me, writing is in part an experiment in responding to these words and offering them a voice.

Entering the room, I am encouraged by the sight of the notebook that lies waiting, a row of pens lined up beside it, on the little wooden table that once belonged to my godmother. I think of her, close my eyes, remember. My heart fills with memories of tea and cake, and the long afternoon conversations that comforted and formed me then and sustain me now. I find my shoulders loosening and my mind beginning to put aside everything else that is happening on this day, everything that is affecting me physically and emotionally.

I sit down at the table, enjoy the sense of possibility as I open a fresh page in the notebook, let go of distraction and allow the words to take over. I find a moment to notice the detail in the line and curve of the letters as they begin, hesitantly at first, to form and fall onto the page. In another moment my eyes are drawn towards the window, a group of people at the bus stop providing material for my awakening imagination.

I sense the lightness of the pen in my right hand, the cool smoothness of the paper beneath it, and in my left hand I cradle the warm weight of my head as my mind slows down to think and to wonder. I feel the tug of my fingers running through my hair.

When again the pen begins to scratch, to draw and to click across the page, I feel my breath slowing down too, a different rhythm emerging as the writing gains pace and the words on the page increase in strength and number. I settle into the growing sense of calm, the chattering of my conscious mind receding and the ideas coming to life until suddenly I become aware that the words have filled the page and that the sense of urgency, and those questions about what I will write, how I will write and whether it will make any sense have transformed themselves into the reflective joy of having written.

Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash


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