1. Take time to do things that feed your senses, all of them. Go to beautiful gardens and museums, fabric stores and restaurants. Smell roses, perfumes, other people.
2. Make a habit of eavesdropping and buy sunglasses so you can stare more easily.
3. Carry a notebook and make sketches of things. They don’t have to be skilled or even competent, they’ll just help remind you to really SEE things. A good second is to use your cell phone camera, a LOT. If you see something that jolts your senses, take a picture of it.
4. Travel. Wherever you can. Go to new neighborhoods. Go to faraway places. Pay attention to your surroundings, but also pay attention to how you feel exploring them. Are you excited, standoffish, worried about looking foolish or intruding where you should not go?
5. Find music you love and play it often. Go to concerts or out to listen to music in whatever venue you can enjoy. Go to the symphony. Go to plays. Watch movies.
6. Develop hobbies that excite your senses. Visual people might enjoy things like making stained glass or quilts or learning to use watercolors. Auditory people might like learning to play an intrustrument or collecting the music of a certain form or era. (I like the blues and baroque.) Texture people might like models or sewing.
I think a lot of writers are magpies, and that’s good. If you get a yen to learn to cook Indian food, or learn to speak Arabic, or play the cello, go for it. I promise that far from taking away from your writing, it will add to it.
7. Read poetry. Aloud. This is something we’ve moved away from in our society, but writers are the natural audience for poets. Read it and feel it. There is a poet for everyone out there. Find one you love.
8. Be alert to the themes and ideas you love to use in your work. How do you use them? What interests you? How can you keep coming up with fresh ways to illustrate them?
9. Spend the extra two weeks to make a manuscript really sparkle. To layer in those colors, the details of smell and touch and song, to tweak a scarf from blue to orange.
10. PLAY. ENJOY YOURSELF! Remember, this is about making something beautiful, not a big, impossible challenge.
Barbara Samuel writes women’s fiction and romance in a number of genres. Her most current books are The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’neal and a New Adult series, Random and Stoked, written as Lark O’Neal. She’s written more than 45 novels and has won 7 RITAs.