During the holiday season, while traveling and hosting or visiting others, you may not be able to keep up your writing at the same pace. We discussed in the last episode the benefit of having a rut to run in, and yet as we head into these next couple of months, we may not be able to maintain our writing routines at the same level.
Today I want to encourage you that even if you are unable to keep up even a modified version of your writing routine, you can still do one thing: pay attention, to draw attention.
If you pay attention to the details, events and interactions surrounding you over the next few weeks and you have a way to collect and store them, you will be able to use all of that for later, when you’re writing, to draw attention.
Oliver Burkeman in an article in The Guardian, highlights thoughts on writing from Steven Pinker, who points out that writing is inherently a psychological phenomenon, “a way that one mind can cause ideas to happen in another mind.”
So our job is to be the ones who see, to notice what’s going on in the world directly around us, and beyond. We can take notes and store them someplace where we can find them again when we sit down to work. It may not feel like writing, but it’s the work of a writer.
This can be a task for the holidays if you can’t find an hour to open your computer and write. You could press pause on your work-in-progress for a few days, and instead, pay attention, take notes, and be ready to write, later, through story, description, the essay form, poetry, or fiction, in a way that draws the reader’s attention to something you’ve seen.
This holiday season, pay attention. Gather what you need to recreate the scene, the moment, the revelation, the sensory experience, and store it up for later. Just type a few notes into Evernote or OneNote—wherever you would drop a few sentences or bullet points to jog your memory.
When the days return to normal, you can pull those notes into Word, a Google Doc, or Scrivener, and start the process of “joint attention,” walking alongside your future reader. Write as if you’re saying, “Look here. Can you see it?”
Pay attention, so you can draw your reader’s attention.
Ideas from this episode:
- Should you write for yourself or for an audience? The answer is “for an audience,” but not to impress them; using the concept of “joint attention,” help them discern something you know they’d be able to see, if only they were looking in the right place.
- Our job as writers is to being the ones who see—to notice what’s going on in the world directly around us, and beyond.
- This holiday season, pay attention and gather what you need to recreate the scene, the moment, the revelation, the sensory experience—and store it up for later.
- When you can find time to sit at your computer, write as if you’re saying, “Look here. Can you see it?”
- Pay attention, so you can draw your reader’s attention.
- “This column will change your life: how to think about writing“ (The Guardian article by Oliver Burkeman)
- Write in the Middle of the Holidays
- #26 Why Writers Need a Rut to Run In (podcast episode)
- #13 Multi-sensory Writing
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Is your writing life all it can be?
Let this book act as your personal coach, to explore the writing life you already have and the writing life you wish for, and close the gap between the two.
“A genial marriage of practice and theory. For writers new and seasoned. This book is a winner.”
—Phil Gulley, author of Front Porch Tales