You are the filter for what you see, hear, taste, touch and smell in this world. You must own your experience, every detail of it, to write well. Each experience builds into a bigger picture. When you report where you are, what you see, taste, touch, feel and smell, you also release what is inside of you.
Be sensitive to all experience, no matter how small and you will be more deeply informed, often leading you to discoveries about relationships, places and yourself.
Write about those subjects that are surrounded with strong feelings. For instance, divorce, parenting, fighting a war or visiting a foreign country could be among your topics. Ask yourself “What do I hate or love about … ?” Do not answer with generalities. Be specific. List the smells, sounds, tastes, sights and textures of the event, place or person.
Smell, taste, hear, see and touch what you are writing about as if for the first time. Avoid writing about your attitude towards the subject and instead, let the images and details of the experience speak for themselves.
You may be angry, you may be sad, you may be livid. It might be about something that happened yesterday, or ten years ago.
Now, this can be tough, but ‘eat the cold’: look that moment in the face and plot it out as a series of events. In other words, instead of telling us how you felt, tell us what happened.
Next, step into character. Be the person who caused the most pain. What motivated him to act this way? Test out different scenarios.
What happens if you handled things differently? What have you learnt? Would you act differently next time?
Digest the emotions just as your body digests food. Get rid of the junk and keep the energy.
Use your obsessions, infatuations, and confusions in your writing. What interests you?
Write a list of all the things you believe and those things you don’t. Once you know this, you will know where to look to find your stories.
Take a slice of life and ask ‘What if?’ ‘What if' drives everything when it comes to writing stories.
A list of interesting things and subjects and topics.
A list of your obsessions. Obsessions make great stories.
A list of your fears.
A list of those things, people and places you love.
A list of those things, people and places you hate.
A list of the times when something memorable and interesting happened in your life.
Your memories contain the sights, sounds, feelings, tastes and smells of your original experience. To step back in time, focus on just one sense.
Which sense to begin with? Ask yourself ‘What do I remember first?’ Is it an image, sound, smell or texture? Describe this first moment in detail to begin your journey into the past.
I write lists in the back of my notebook. Or sometimes on scraps of paper. These ‘sentence starters’ becoming the perfect jumping off point into your writing.
This first sentence starter is called ‘The Time’. The point is to list as many standout moments as possible.
For instance, it could start:
The time our daughter was born.
The time we went to Italy.
The time I met Sarah
The time Josephine flooded our apartment.
Later on, reading through these lists becomes the perfect place to start writing. What you are looking for is to remember as much detail as possible. Detail is the gold dust of writing that gives your work life.
So begin now, start listing the most interesting moments in your life. Try to write twenty lines. Often the most difficult lines to write are the most interesting ideas to develop.