Writing Lessons: What’s close to you?


AT MY ELBOW this morning is a shelf of 3-ring binders. Mostly white, one green. They’ve caught my eye. I’ve been writing from this spot for a few months now and today is the first time I’ve turned and noticed them. I snap a pic.

* * *

I believe in writing about what’s closest, that to find what you need to write about, you don’t need to cast a wide net, but to pay attention to what’s right in front of you, right within reach, right there in your thoughts like a speed bump that needs to be gotten over every time you try to go anywhere.

Just a theory, that.
What’s close is like a boat. Step into it. See where it takes you.

As for the notebooks, they’ve been there all along. I’ve ignored them as best I could because I think I know what’s in them. Training materials from classes taught. Classes at Nabisco. Classes at writer’s conferences. Study groups I’ve lead. Notes from graduate classes. Printouts of half-written manuscripts. Just a bunch of “I Used to” stuff.

I’ve heard them laughing at me from the bottom shelf of the bookcase my father made for me as a wedding gift. (Is this what Daddy intended, that I use it to hold things that make me feel bad?)

They need straightening, to be stood upright again, to LOOK right. Is that why I noticed them today? Appearances?

A spring bird sings outside my window. A new song. An excuse to walk away from the notebooks (again) and over to the window to look. But I don’t.

They seem different to me today for some reason. They seem not to be laughing at me, but to be waiting for me, these reminders, not of things I no longer do, but something else.

These are things that once meant something to you. Why? And what do they have to do with today? Go find the answer to that.

Something has been lifted from me recently and, whatever it is, it’s departure has allowed me to hear with new ears. A new song.

All this from a glance at some disheveled notebooks.

What’s close to you?

One of the biggest creative mistakes I see writers make is to look far and wide, searching to know what is popular and desired by many, then go try to provide that rather than being still and observing what’s been put close.

About Marilyn

Reading, thinking and talking about leadership, writing, ESL for refugees, faith, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. My work has appeared in Moody Magazine, Leadership Journal, Guideposts, Upper Room and many other publications. I lead workshops in personal experience writing and accept speaking engagements as schedule permits. I also listen.
This entry was posted in creativity, finding your voice, things that catch my eye, transitions, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Writing Lessons: What’s close to you?

  1. bethhavey says:

    So true, Marilyn. Write about what’s hitting you in the face, what’s right there in front of you–real gut-renching living. It can be powerful. Beth

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  2. Sharon O says:

    I always be still and wait before writing. It is really the best way to find inspiration.

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  3. I love that boat image!

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  4. I like the boat, too. And the reminder to use my eyes right where I’m at.

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  5. Belinda says:

    All I could think was “Who needs the notebooks?” You are teaching me still, here, your student who won’t go home, showing up for class!🙂.

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  6. Marilyn – Yes, I think this idea is exactly what I need as a writer, to continue to look carefully at what is around me and try to make sense of that with words. In fact, I was doing an organizing/cleaning task today that I know I will write about, and because I had decided to write about it, i tried to take in the details carefully as I was experiencing it, to lean in close to see the shadows and to breathe in the smells.

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