The Power of Observation

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It took me writing a lot of words to find how to write the right words.

What I mean is this: I've been writing in journals for well over a decade and that has been very useful. I still write in a journal most days. Even if I begin the entry by whinging and moaning, by the end of it I've turned things around (or the writing has turned me around) and I'm feeling inspired & ready for the day. I rarely re-read my journal. It's a purge for me, a splat on the page, an exorcism of sorts.

But there is a different kind of writing that requires me to pay more attention, to notice, to look out into the world, to develop point of view. It's as simple as noticing what's around me and writing down those observations. I say simple, but like most good new habits, it does take a little while to get into the swing of things.

In her address at the 2015 Humana Festival of New American Plays, Ann Bogart said:

"I've written in a journal every day since I was about thirteen years old.When I was eighteen, I had a friend who said I shouldn't write in a journal what I did, I should write three observations. So then rather than saying: today I went to a bank and then to a restaurant, instead say: I noticed today in front of the bank there are more homeless than last year. It was really hard ... So in order to get unstuck, I would question the words you use, the story you tell, and can you do more than just report. Can you actually do the extra effort of point of view?"

So this is the writing challenge: to write 3 or 4 or 6 observations in your journal every day, or most days. Notice the detail of life.  Be specific. Use all of the senses. One of the intentions is to stop you from generalising or summarising. After all, it's detail that makes stories interesting, emotional and believable.


C x


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