Writing the Details

How to focus on writing when you are distracted.

Bright blue skies with a few wispy clouds. Credit: Theresa Duncan

Sometimes when I sit to write, my mind swirls and swirls. Spring is when this happens to me most often. Like today. We had a wonderful birthday celebration yesterday for my son-in-law, so I have a happiness hangover.

To top it off this morning, bluebird skies are the backdrop of the day and birds sing their favorite songs in the pines outside my window. Such peace and tranquility can be so distracting. I want to go out, to breathe the fresh air, rake pine needles and cones, plant seeds, take a long walk with Brinkley. Writing is only one item on my to-do list.

I remind myself that writing is a discipline, but my distraction leads me to the thesaurus, looking for a four-letter word for discipline; there are none listed. I think of going online to see if they have one, but I don’t want to break my rule of staying offline as much as possible when I write. You know, to avoid distraction.

I pull up my memoir file and begin reading, finding a place that sparks a vivid memory. I focus my mind on the details of the scene, which reads in rough-draft form something like this:

John and I head to our favorite bakery, River Rising, once a week for a cup of soup for lunch. So many people were out on Good Friday, our lunch became a kind of lunch theater. Little girls and boys refused to cling to their parents hands, in favor of exploring. In front of the historic, brick post office, a little girl, dressed as a fairy*, stopped to smell every single dandelion in bloom in the lawn*, every butterfly flitting by*, seemingly every ant on the sidewalk. After ten minutes and only fifteen feet of progress toward their car, the mom picked up her child around the waste, pretending to fly the little fairy to the car. 

In the places I put a *, I notice that I can focus, add more detail, put the reader into the scene. I might add the little girl was blonde and had on a headband of lace, that her dress was a soft pink with an irregular hem. I might add that there were a total of three dandelions. I might try to remember whether there were actually butterflies or moths or talk about how most children of four or five years old do not likely know the difference. I might talk about the way many walked by those two without noticing them, but how John and I sat smiling, watching the scene unfold.

Going further…

I call this the magnifying glass trick, where I pick a scene I initially rushed through and get more specific.

Look for a scene in something you’ve written recently and apply your magnifying glass to it. What details will you add?

Further still…

Think about something you wanted to add to that scene, but struggled with really getting down on paper. Focus on that one portion of the scene. In my scene, I might choose to describe the dress in more detail, trying to evoke what brought to my mind that the child envisioned herself as a fairy.

Let me know how this works for you. Until then,

Happy writing… ~T

At Stacking Stones Writers, I seek to create a community of writers, a place you can go to find encouragement for your passion – writing.  Please follow the Stacking Stones Writers blog to have easy access to all the tips, tools, and ideas shared here.  Thank you!

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