Tuesday, May 03, 2011

What I know.

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." - Coach John Wooden


I'm a skimmer. My natural inclination is to read the headlines and not the story. I gather information in broad brush strokes and then think I know a lot more than I actually do. For example, I know there's a casino being built on the west side of Columbus. I know that the royals wed on Friday morning. I know that Osama Bin Laden was killed Sunday night. But that's all I know.

Writing takes more than that. It requires me to sink deeply into the details. I have to push against my natural tendency to skim the surface of things, summarzie things, and make broad sweeping statements. I need to inhabit my life. That's what makes meditation an excellent practice for a writer. In meditation, I sink into the experience. I sink into the body sensations, the smells, the tastes. I sink into the thoughts by watching them arise and pass away. In this way, I experience the tightness in my gut when I think about the casino, the warm glow in my chest when I saw Will and Kate kiss, and the blank, empty, shocked space in my head when my husband told me Bin Laden was dead. And then I can write about these things in a way that allows the reader to experience them with me.

How do you sink into your world? How do you capture the details in your writing? If you like, tell us about it by posting a comment below.

10 comments:

Matt Jorgenson said...

Nita, I love how you describe your process. I'm sad that people think someone's death is a reason to celebrate and maybe I'll meet the both of you at the casino sometime.

Nita said...

Thanks, Matt. I've had a mix of emotions over the Bin Laden situation. Don't think us shouting, "USA, USA," was our finest hour, but that's who we are. As for the casino, yes. Let's meet there, if it's ever done.

Mary Bonneau said...

Headlines seem to tell the whole story, don't they? Sometimes I read the first and last paragraphs and skip the middle since it repeats itself over and over. As for my writing, it just comes to me. I don't stress and worry over it, just try to write as I speak. I'm not sure that makes for good writing but it keeps me from being frustrated with the whole writing process. Maybe it is just wishful thinking!

Nita said...

Mary - I could learn a thing or too from not stressing so much about it! Thanks for the comment.

Patricia Berdan said...

I related to this post. Thank you. And I loved the writing. I followed you into your process, which made me think about my own. "I need to inhabit my life." Yes! Me too.

Nita said...

Thanks, Patricia. Glad to be helpful.

hamletkeeper said...

Found your site through a friend. So glad I did!

I don't read the paper and watch the news on tv in passing. It's too much to let go of. But who didn't hear about Ben Laden? I tend to be cynical when it comes to politics, anyway. And meditation is my one best way to overcome that cynicism and reach into the truth of life.

Nita said...

". . . meditation is my one best way to overcome that cynicism and reach into the truth of life." - well, put hamletkeeper!

Lisa Geichman Prosek said...

I write mainly memoir. When I'm writing a scene, I close my eyes and open the rest of my senses so I can hear, smell, and feel exactly what I experienced in the moment I'm writing about. I always come into this process thinking that I'll never be able to remember enough detail, but the process never fails me...and I'm so grateful for that.

Nita said...

Lisa - That's exactly what I'm talking about. I learned the process through meditation. You've explained it quite eloquently.