Tips On Writing – See What’s There

One issue that many people face when they first start exercising their creativity is the difference between describing what is there and what they think is (or should be) there. In drawing, one of the first things you learn is to observe and draw what is actually in front of you. In writing, this exercise is just as important.
Think about a child’s drawing of a face. All the bits are usually there, but they look odd, a bit out of place, a bit out of perspective, a bit misshapen. It is because our natural impulse it so draw the image we have in our mind rather than what we are really seeing. You can train a child to actually look at a face and draw just that and their art will improve very quickly. Once they have done that, the finer techniques are just refinement.
With writing, the process is much the same. Often, we will sit down and describe a scene or a person or an object and it won’t quite feel real. We know something is missing, but we are not sure what. When you actually look at something you will be amazed that it almost always doesn’t really look like the picture we’ve constructed in our head.
Do an experiment for yourself. Look at something in your immediate environment, a chair or a lamp or the phone. Any simple object, especially if it is one that you “know” how it looks. Now really look at it. (Actually experience it in all your senses, but sight is the primary one.) Write down what you actually see. (Don’t worry about being brilliant, or even good. This is for you, not a worldwide readership.)
I’ll use this paper napkin:
It is white, but with grey areas where the light is hitting it on the creases and folds. There is a pattern stamped into it, flower-like patterns tied together with small diamond shapes, that I can see with subtle differences between brighter white and softer grey. The edge closest to me has several underlaying layers from the folding of the paper. It is slightly wrinkled on the lower left-hand corner and the tops of those ridges are lighter white and the front sides are much darker grey. Etc.
Had I done this from memory, I would have seen a white square, perhaps a bit wrinkled. It wouldn’t have any real dimension. Usually, I will also bring in the other senses; touch, smell, sound, even taste, to make it richer. As you practice this, you will get better at observing and actually noticing your observations. Once you begin to master this, you can translate it into describing things that are no longer right in front of you (things in your memory) and things that have never been in front of you (things in your imagination.)
To do the latter, experience the things in your imagination as if it were right there. Look at it, touch it, listen to it, smell it, taste it. It will build in 3 dimensions in your subconscious mind and you can than describe it as if it really were right in front of you.
Doing this exercise will improve all your writing.
Geoff Hoff has spent his life studying creativity and the last several years studying marketing. He teaches people to reawaken their own creativity and then to bring that creativity to their business.

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