Descriptive writing is not only painting a picture, but providing depth, form, shape, taste and smell to the reader’s experience. Visual imagery can be intensified by adding other senses.
So, close your eyes. Today, we take a stranger into the cluttered room. Can you see a stranger on the street? In a mall? Shopping? At a sports event?
Can you “see” them with your eyes wide shut, unseeing? Yes?
Good. We are ready to begin. Here is your prompt: We all see people we don’t know. Pick one. Close their eyes. Drop a veil over their eyes, temporarily blinding them. Take them into the cluttered room…
Standing at the door we can hear the gentle hum of the computer. It is low and off to the right. The entrance is narrow, with the door hinge on the left side. We enter cautiously, bit by bit, inching forward. Our hands glide along the wall, as we search our way forward, intending to avoid obstacles. Two meters into the room, the wall fades away, having reached its end.
Having encountered no obstacles of clutter, we remain still, motionless. From this point back, the room is clear, decluttered. We stand, motionless. Computer to the right and low. That must mean that in front of it and possibly off a little to the left there must be a chair or other place to sit down. Never have I known a home computer to come without a place to sit.
I turn to the right, and in the darkness glide forward, slowly, cautiously, my hand feeling in front of me. Suddenly I make contact with what I had expected to find. It is a chair. Running my hands over it, I find the chair is a swivel chair, the kind that swings around. If you pick up your feet, you can swing around in a complete circle.
Placing my hand on the seat and the other on the top of the back support, I sit down in the cluttered room. Yes, I know the room is cluttered. I can hear it, feel it, smell it. This is a room with life in it, and life has left clutter, the clutter of a busy person. I smile, remembering the clutter of a room I once knew, before it was cluttered. This one is similar to that one, in size and shape.
I can smell the smell of new books all around me. Though books in digital form are ubiquitous nowadays, the person who uses this room obviously prefers to read physical books. Those who have predicted the death of the book have yet to wait a long time, many a year shall pass by, at least until the occupant of this room has passed on into posterity.
A familiar smell distinguishes itself to me. It is Shakespeare, there among the shelves, wafting gently into my nostrils. He is everywhere now, on the table to my left, in the bookshelf facing me and the bookshelf off to my right. To have him on the floor would not be fair to this writer.
Yet, who knows? I wonder… I move my left foot forward and a pile of papers and books topple down around my foot. Yes, it is as I thought. This is a cluttered room in a house that has not been painted. The smell of paint comes not to me, nor does the smell of the early Autumn come to me either. A window is here, the warmth on my right arm tells me of the presence of the sun shining in through a closed window.
Looking out of that closed window, it must be a day with little reason to open the window. Curiosity gets the better of me, and I rise. I wish to find a path to the West Wall, for my senses tells me this is but a small room, where a busy person takes refuge from interruptions. I must be careful, yet find the western wall I desire.
I raise my right leg and extend it fully, taking one extremely long step. Gently I lower the foot while holding on to the chair with one hand, and feeling in front of me with the other. The foot comes down softly, I have been lucky. I now mentally mark the location of the chair, and then release it as I bring my left leg alongside my right leg.
Again, though I be in a cluttered room, I have not brought my foot down upon clutter. There is method in this clutter, for obviously the center of the room is cluttered, and the extremes of the room have been left free, to enable swift navigation, by eyes that see and eyes that see not.
Moving my hands in front of me, I find my predictions to be true. Shakespeare is lying on a table to my right and in a bookshelf to my left. Six inches in front of me is the West wall. Yes, this is as I thought, a place of clutter, few enter for the sight is uninviting. A subterfuge, a ploy, which has consecrated this space as offlimits to all others, save the lone occupant, who watches me, wondering what is my story.
Neither of us speak. At the exact moment when I feel the hand on my arm, to gently guide me out of the room, I quote Hamñet, knowing I will be understood perfectly:
“To clutter, or not to clutter…
Nothing. A full minute ticks away, as I wait, wondering if I have overestimated my host, or maybe, it is not Shakespeare that lives among the books in this bookshelf?
I repeat myself, at length this time:
“To clutter or not to clutter,
that is the question.”
I wait not long this time, for an answer is soon in coming:
“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind
to suffer the slings and arrows
of outrageous clutter,
to take arms,
and by declutter,
I smile and respond:
“No, ’tis not nobler in the mind
to suffer the slings and arrows
of outrageous clutter…
I feel the smile beaming upon me as I am led out of the room, and I know already that upon my next visit, there will be clutter in the room. To declutter would make it an inviting place to be, pleasant even if the window were open on a warm sunny day.
No, a writer is at home in this place, and the clutter will continue, of that I have little doubt, just as I have no doubt that if my eyes could see, the beauty of the cluttered room would be evident to my sight, as well as to my sense of aesthetics…
Unseen in the cluttered room, Don Quixote continues to search for his Dulcinea…