When I’m writing—these articles, for example—I often compose a kind of first draft in my head, and I usually do it when I’m out on a long walk with the dog. For this article, I knew I wanted to get across the idea that writers can introduce elements from one or all of the five senses to make settings and characters more realistic. So, on my walk, I thought about how I could approach this.
Then I noticed my dog, Dexter, was nowhere to be seen. This is very usual. We both get caught up in our thoughts as we wander along and lose track of each other, the time, the place…you get the idea.
He wasn’t far away. He rarely is. He’d got stuck sniffing a single blade of grass. I wondered what was so interesting about it, and how he was perceiving what seemed to be a single blade of grass but which was clearly much more to him.
I remembered reading or hearing somewhere that dogs might be capable of “seeing” smells, that their brain interprets scents in much the same way as our brains interpret light. Were they still colorblind, I then wondered. And this made me think of my own colorblindness, and I thought about the time at school when I got into big trouble from the teacher for coloring the grass brown. (I went to school in Scotland where, regardless of the time of year, the rain makes sure the grass is never, ever brown. Brown grass was a foreign concept to even the teacher.)
I then realized that this had nothing to do with the article I wanted to write. My mind had done that thing that all minds do—wandered off, just like Dexter and I do. No big deal. Dexter soon got fed up with his blade of grass and joined me again, and we were back on track. [Read more…]