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Journaling for Creativity.

Mind training games: Sensory impressions

This post forms part of a serialisation eventually building into a complete reference on Creative Journaling and the writer's notebook. One that will demonstrate how to journal in order to improve creativity and effectiveness of artists, writers or anyone needing to be creative.

Introduction Contents Techniques About Method Games for Creative Development Sensory Impressions


Creative Journaling: Sensory impressionsThe game

This is a very simple mind training game. First find a picture that interests you and paste it into your creative journal. Place it near the centre of a pair of clean pages and then write down around the picture all the sensory experiences that it evokes.



 How to play

Let's take an ice-cream cone as an example. Around it let’s imagine six equal zones, one each for each of the five senses of taste, touch, sight, sound and smell, plus one extra zone which, for the moment, we will leave blank.


So you might surround your picture with the words;

Ice cream and six senses
Looking beyond the obvious

Are you struggling on “sound”?

What sound does an ice cream make? Not much.

An actual ice cream doesn't make very much actual noise, apart maybe from the occasional "plop" if it falls from the cone. If you are struggling then you are thinking too tightly, this game asks you to write down 'any' sensory experiences the picture evokes.

So for sound, we could also include those we associate with our memories of ice cream, for example:

  • children laughing
  • seagulls
  • surf
  • crunching beach stones
  • fairground rides
  • vendors sales chimes
  • slot machines
  • wooden balls striking coconuts
  • circus music
  • coins falling in a tin pan
  • flapping flags
  • crowds chattering
  • cameras clicking
  • children demanding/crying/whining
  • pigeons cooing
  • a lover’s thank you

You can also do this with the other four senses and suddenly a wealth of associated sensations are available to you. Let your mind wander far and wide whilst it fills the page. It does not matter if you jump from childhood to adult memories or skip between continents as you skip across the page. Allow your brain to dance in and out of distant and diverse memories, allow it to open up and find its own half-forgotten connections as the exercise progresses.

As the page fills, more and more of your old memories become refreshed and cross-connected with other strong memories. These memories then flow into your consciousness; it is this flow that is an important building block of your creativity.

More importantly, feel what is happening in your mind as the memories begin to flood forward, try to caress that feeling in your mind, hold it gently as if holding a small skittish fragile kitten. Grip too hard and you will scare it away. Become familiar with how your thoughts are flowing, so that at another time, as you approach that creative state of thought, you may recognise that flow for what it is. Eventually it becomes easier to become aware of your creative-self, to ‘listen’ to yourself, and so relax into a creative state, whenever you want.


The sixth sense

The sixth area is for two more collections; it is the area of the sixth sense.

The thoughts and emotions that cross your mind are the writer’s sixth sense. The five ‘normal’ senses come from organs that tell you something about your world, they allow you to know what is and what isn’t; the food smells good, the fire is hot, the path is blocked, the knife is sharp etc.

In a similar way, thoughts and emotions tell you about your world. The brain is the organ of the sixth sense and we sense it through thoughts and emotions; the bull might charge, that man is attractive, it’s a scary spider etc. Both thought and emotions have the same root, in that they both begin in the mind, there are no other organs involved in providing the information of this ‘sense’. Whilst they each deal with a different form of thinking, they both combine to form your writer’s sixth sense.

So, you would place in the sixth area all your thoughts and your emotions that are evoked by the picture. Some of these might be;


  • do I have enough money?
  • confusing choices
  • how do I hold in one hand and pay?
  • a need for tissues
  • distance back – will they drip?
  • maybe a larger one?
  • do they have my favourite?
  • Traffic, children, caution


  • joy
  • excitement
  • greed
  • guilt
  • disappointment
  • embarrassment
  • relief
  • desire
  • gratitude
  • relief

It can be quite surprising as to how complex our interactions are, with what we think of as everyday events. This simple exercise in your journal explores those relationships and allows you to see beyond the obvious.

The photo or sketch for this game can be placed in your journal at any time that you find something interesting in a magazine or from elsewhere. Just cut it out and pop it in your journal for later fun. The game can be played all at once or you can return during odd moments and dance amongst the words, again. Play with it and do what works for you.


The review

Once the associations for the picture have quietened down, reflect on what you see on the page, and circle words that ‘seem’ significant. Maybe collect the noisy words on another page and maybe change the size of a word to match its clamour or try using different colours. Finally, make a journal entry about your experience of the exercise by writing an essay, poem, letter, short story, lyrics, sketch or whatever else your creative-mind is asking you to do.


The purpose

The main purpose of this mind training game is simply to gain awareness of the complex sensory impressions that surrounds basic everyday objects and events. The secondary purpose of the game is to help you discover for yourself the powerful association abilities of your creative-brain, and how by focusing on associations you allow your creative-mind more autonomy, and that you can actually ‘feel’ the difference in your thinking.


Photo credit: Mr Whippy at Ditchling Beacon, by Kate Fisher.
Photo credit: Ice cream horror, by Wee Lakeo.
"Mind training games: Sensory impressions" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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