By: Cris Freese
Athletes practice. Musicians practice. As a writer, you need to do the same. Whether you have dreams of writing a novel, a memoir, or a collection of poems, or you simply want to improve your everyday writing, you’ll need to build your skills by way of practice.
Doing so includes making use of all of your faculties, including the act of observation. The following excerpt is taken from Barbara Baig’s How to Be a Writer, which is an empowering, down-to-earth book that gives you the tools you need and tells you what (and how) to practice so that you can become the writer you want to be.
* * * * *
The power of observation—of being aware
is around us—is a
natural human faculty that we are all born with. In many of us this faculty has
atrophied from lack of use; but, with practice it can, in time, be regained. of and noticing what
How to Observe 1: Turn Outwards
Developing your observational powers is simple: Turn your attention away from the chatter in your mind—I wish I hadn’t said that
I wonder if I should buy chicken
for dinner … I think he likes me—and turn it outwards, toward the world
around you. Simply notice what is there: What do the clouds look like today?
What is the person sitting next to you on the subway wearing? How loud is the
train? How does your sandwich taste? …
Though this practice is simple, you may not find it easy. For many of us, the act of engaging with the world around sends our minds instantly into the mode of evaluation and judgment. Very often we leap from attention to judgment without even realizing we are doing so: What an ugly dress that woman is wearing! Or I hate this music. But observation is not judgment! Observation requires that we pay attention to what’s around us not with our judging minds but with our noticing minds: That woman’s dress is red and green with yellow stripes. Or: This music repeats the same two sounds over and over.
The first step in learning to observe is to slow down.
. . .
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