All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, June 10, 2024

It's All About Focus

I know I go on about this a little too much, but I wanted to discuss the importance of focus when it comes to writing. Not necessarily the art of staying on topic - though that is important - but rather focusing on the story you want to tell and targeting the very heart of the matter. This is what makes writing a very intimate experience, and the reader feels it as well. The more focused we are on a concept, feeling, or idea, the more the reader experiences what we are talking about.

To demonstrate this, I think about the people I know who want to write about their life. They have a lot of great stories, their life has been a series of wonderful adventures, and they want to commit these to words. Therefore, they set upon the task of writing about their life. It's usually a mess at this point, because writing about a life is viewing things from 35,000 feet - the detail, the focus, is lost. Rather, they talk about their life but we really don't get the intimate experience of knowing who they actually are. We just get the broad strokes, when there is so much more to discover. 

I think a great way to experiment with focus is through a writing exercise. Now, I cannot take credit for this - it was mentioned by a fellow writer in one of my workshops and I thought it was so brilliant that I had to share it. (Plus, she's a regular reader, so she knows who she is.) It's a little elaborate, so work with me. The exercise was first, to draw a floor plan of your childhood home. I know - why is a writer drawing things? This is to activate our memories but to narrow our field and get into the context of what we would write about. The next step (that involves writing) is to pick out one room in that floor plan, and write about one memory from that one room in that house. No wandering around, no talking about all the Christmas celebrations in the family room or all the dinners cooked in that kitchen. One room, one moment, one memory. And... write!

To some, this may sound genuinely boring. Seriously, when there's so much life to write about, why spend all your words at that one moment in that one room? That's the genius of this exercise - writing about that one moment gives us the opportunity to express as much as possible about what made that moment so important; why it stood out after all these years and we decided to write about that one point in time and no other. In that one memory we can communicate more about ourselves than a long discussion about all the family gatherings we had or the color of every wall in the house. 

This is the intimacy that comes with writing about ourselves. If we truly want to write about ourselves and our rich life experiences, we need to make them living things, and we need to give that to the reader. It might just be one memory out of millions, but if we focus on ourselves and everything that comes with that memory, it's a truly expressive experience.

(Thanks again to the writer who shall not be mentioned by name. Expect my response to this writing prompt shortly.)       

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