What Successful Writers Do by Rochelle Melander
To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. —Mary Oliver
Have you heard of Memoto? It’s a lifelogging camera. Users clip on the tiny camera and it takes two geotagged photos a minute. The device comes with cloud space and the program will organize the photos for you. The website says, “You can revisit any moment of your past.”
Part of me loves this idea. I could record my life and no longer worry about forgetting. But the writer part of me worries that I’d get lazy and stop noticing the delicious parts of life. As Mary Oliver says, paying attention is our “endless and proper work.” She’s right. Successful writers—the ones who craft words that change our way of seeing life—notice what happens in the world and write about it.
Try this: Challenge yourself to pay attention today. Collect images, actions, words, and stories to use in your stories. Only take pictures if you think you will need them. Instead, train your mind to make a memory. At the end of the day, practice creating a word picture by recording what you discovered in your journal.
Pro Tip: Jot down a few words in a notebook or on your smart phone to help you remember what you noticed.
Your turn: Comment below on how you have learned to pay attention. Or, if you like the Memoto idea, share why!
“We need to sit down” may have some truth to offer. Sitting intentionally has helped me both pay attention and receive attention through eyes as well as ears.
Another thought-provoking blog post, Rochelle. I, agree, sometimes you have to just sit and observe to be a better writer. I think it comes from my childhood, but I have vivid memories of trips to Cape Cod in the summertime with my family and we would just sit on a bench in Provincetown and watch people. And, Provincetown was such a fun place to sit and just watch people, but I learned so much from that experience that my parents gave to me.
What a lovely story, Bob! And how cool that your family would just sit at watch people!
I’m not saying I’m great or anything, but I do write and people always say, “what do you do all day? How do you notice this stuff.” And I’m not sure I have the answer except that I just notice stuff. Your blog entry, today, helps me know I’m not crazy or unfocused, but maybe, just maybe, my hobby of noticing things and seeing things (maybe a bit differently than others) could turn out to be a good thing, someday. All of us would-be “writers” should hone this skill, I guess. I’m always taken to writers who show me things that I don’t see or never noticed. Now I’m rambling …but the best comedians are like this, too. They notice, see, and pay attention.
Yes! I agree. And I think that this paying attention thing is what helps writers convert the day job into material and eventually into enough material to quit the day job!