Tuesday tips is a category of posts here at Writerly Life promises to offer concrete tips for improving or kickstarting your writing. The tips that fall into this category are the sorts that you can do today or even right now.
Ask what you’re grateful for
If you’ve written a lot of stories, you’ll reach a point where you’re just a bit confident of your writing ability. You’ll understand a lot more than you once did about the rhythm of a pleasing sentence. You’ll know what words to choose and how to avoid cliches. You can describe a sunset, or a person crying, or a vacant lot, with great skill.
The problem, of course, is that describing things competently and vividly is only part of the battle in a story. It’s not just about capturing things in stasis; it’s about giving them a special charge, making us see them in a new way, seeing them with the coloration of emotion that your character or your story has. You could probably describe all the objects in your current room very well, for example. Does that mean you can tell a story about them?
Here’s a quick way to add that special charge of story to a description today: be grateful for something. Take a good look around you and try to choose something that you are really, deeply grateful for. And try to think about why you’re grateful for that thing. Why is your life better with that thing?
Maybe it was a gift from a deceased relative. Maybe it’s a blurry snapshot of you with a friend. Maybe it’s a pet curled up on the chair, or your favorite song playing. Whatever it is, it’s time to remember why it’s precious, why it makes life feel extra real.
Recently, I opened a book of short stories I’d had for years and saw the handwriting of someone dear to me who has since passed away. This person liked to check off stories as she read them, and there they were, those backwards left-handed checks down the page. At first I felt terribly sad, looking at them; then, gradually, I began to feel grateful for the checks. The checks were dear to me. I knew I’d open the book again when I was feeling down and I’d look at them again, and feel just a bit closer to the person I’d lost.
Is there something like that in your life that you’re grateful for?