Archive | January 2015

Notice without assigning meaning. Notice without judging. Notice the moment before it’s gone.

Always hurrying from one place to another, from one person to another, from one moment to the next, we miss out on the ability to really see what is happening around us.  And if you are a writer, you lose the chance to find the story inside you. And then, perhaps, even if you are not a writer, you lose the chance to find the story inside you.

In Jack Hamann’s article in the February 2015 edition of THE WRITER, titled “Sowing Sentences”, he tells us how his writing was changed, at least in part, by a book written by Verlyn Klinkenborg.  The book,  titled “Several Short Sentences about Writing”, stresses the idea of noticing things: big things like the Iowa sky, small things like bees and eternal things like seasons.  “Everything you notice is important,” Klinkenborg says “Let me say that a different way: If you notice something, it’s because it’s important.”

What a beautiful and refreshing idea that is; to notice the things around us so that our imagination and creativity have the chance to grow.  Hamann tells us that Klinkenborg admonishes writers to take the time to see the world around us without putting it in words right away.  “Stop taking endless notes, and spend more time simply noticing. Notice what stands out.  Notice what captures our imagination. Notice without assigning meaning. Notice without judging.  Notice without writing.”

Af first, I thought this suggestion was hypocritical to our passion of writing.  How are we to write well if we do not study our material, take notes on our research, or analyze what we observe? But, then I thought about what these two talented writers were really trying to say and I remembered the wise words of Steve Alcorn in his fabulous course on UDEMY:  ” Writing a Novel”.

“Keep it simple” Alcorn suggests. “Don’t explain everything; let it speak for itself.  Readers will get it if it’s written well.” “To write big”, he says, “keep the sentence structure simple. Describe action in real time. Show the characters’ emotion and DON’T write complex sentences that will confuse the reader, do not summarize and do not analyze”.  In order to do that, to write big, we must first pay attention to our surroundings, before we rush to the keyboard with empty words that fall flat.

I have often heard writers advise aspiring authors to “write when not writing”.  Take the time to think things out in your head before plopping words onto the paper.  Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to take in the world and observe what is happening around you before coming to conclusions right away.  Might that process diminish the power of our imagination?

Warren Adler supports this in his interview with Jonathan Aldridge in the same edition of the February 2015 “The Writer”.  Mr. Aldridge asks Adler if journalism helped his fiction writing or whether the fiction writing and journalism are separate entities.  Adler responds with the following:

” Journalism taught me both speed and the necessity of observation.  Indeed, every thing experienced in life and carefully observed is the mother’s milk of creative writing”

We are too quick to race over the simple things that are important in life, in order to get to the next phase, which usually involves making money or obtaining something we want.  Whether we are writers or not, we could all benefit from the cliched idea to ” stop and smell the roses.”  Because, if we fail to take the time to observe, we fail to enjoy the moment.  And in the end, that is all we really have; the moment.

Whether we observe as writers looking for story ideas, or non-writers who look simply for ways to feel satisfaction or joy, stop taking notes, analyzing and judging.  Notice the big and small things around you with a clear and unprejudiced mind.  Have no expectations and be open. Then, when you’re  ready to record the things you noticed, what you have to say will not only be heard, but your writing will convey the meaning that you meant it to, and felt with the greatest impact.

Tapping deeply into your personal life for writing material has the power to change lives.

As writers, we should dig deep into our personal emotions to discover the “unique, yet universal” issues tied to our past experiences that are  important and relatable to the general public.  As long as we are able to connect that emotion to a universal purpose, our writing should flow naturally,  impacting heavily on those who identify with the characters and/ or the subject matter.  If we are passionate about this subject matter, which we should be if the experience was important enough to change us, our writing shall inspire unity, harmony and a positive change within our audience.  A good story allows  readers to overcome their own pain, while they learn from the mistakes of our characters which mirror their own.

As much as we write to entertain, we write to encourage our readers to think deeper, to face their own challenges and to connect with their emotions, with the hope that our story will change lives for the better.  When our readers walk in the shoes of our characters, seeing life from this other point of view, they are able to examine , then acknowledge -their own imperfections, which is the first necessary step toward their growth.

And so, a good story is born from the seeds of our deep, personal emotions and experiences, combined with the magic of our imaginations and society’s “what if” questions and a good writer should be bold enough to expose  painful experiences or emotions to her audience without holding back, in the shape of a well-developed story.  Everyone at some time in their lives relate, whether directly or indirectly, to intense subject matter such as suicide, racism, forbidden love, rape, bullying, the desire to fit in, death of a loved one and other important “universal” issues and it is the job of the writer to explore these serious and sensitive subjects in a way that our readers can identify with and quite possibly, if we are lucky, transform themselves, even in some small way, as a result.