It’s tempting to comment on whatever is hot and trending—to hashtag our way to visibility.
It’s harder to spot what others miss…to care about it, to bear witness. It’s important to pay attention to what others pass by…to see it, capture it, describe it.
James Baldwin knew this, practiced this. He wrote:
“The importance of a writer is continuous…His importance, I think, is that he is here to describe things which other people are too busy to describe.” (James Baldwin)1
In On Being a Writer, the book I wrote with Charity Singleton Craig, we included a chapter titled Notice.
I wrote, “These days, attention and curiosity work together in my writing life as I notice and wonder.”2
One of the assignments in that chapter pointed out:
Some of us need to train ourselves to see, to be attentive, to listen and sense hints of deeper meaning. Once we begin to notice the things that stand out for whatever reason (sometimes we don’t know why), we need to capture and record what we notice.3
We invited readers to notice and capture at least three things each day to train themselves to be more attentive. Later, in reviewing those notes, they can connect that which drew their attention to other, similar, sights, sounds, and smells—and describe it all in more detail.
Writers take those few extra beats to do what other people are too busy to do.
We describe, so others can see, hear, and smell it, too…and be changed.
- Popova, M. (2016, October 22). James Baldwin on Freedom and How We Imprison Ourselves. Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/05/09/james-baldwin-freedom/
- Kroeker, Ann, and Charity Singleton Craig. On Being a Writer. T.S. Poetry Press, 2014. p. 49
- Kroeker, Ann, and Charity Singleton Craig. On Being a Writer. T.S. Poetry Press, 2014. p. 53-54