Be A Writer For A Few Minutes Every Day

Photo by JoJo Nicdao

Part of the job of a writer is to capture a moment or scene by utilizing the five senses. What’s wonderful about this, especially in our “chronically-overscheduled” lives (one of Nathan Bransford’s terms that I love), is it gives you license to slow down, take time and observe the world around you.

As I write this post while on my back patio, I purposely listen to the hard buzz of cicadas, variations on a song by a mockingbird and the soft whir of the fan overhead. There’s not a bit of a breeze through the woods around our house. The leaves are still. It’s a sunny morning, but the air’s so heavy, it settles on my skin and makes my hair frizz like a squirrel tail. (Yes, I live in the South.) My coffee’s unfortunately cold now. I forgot about it. And…there’s the whine of a mosquito. Hold on a sec. …Okay, one less of them in the world now.

See? Practicing being observant can be helpful. But seriously, next time you’re out and about, take notice of how many people are looking down at some hand-held device while sitting in a beautiful park with lots going on around them. How many are scrolling, typing with thumbs or chatting while walking nonchalantly right in front of your car or someone else’s? OR typing away while they’re driving?

Paying attention is therefore, obviously healthy for a multitude of reasons. It allows us to see the beauty and quirkiness in daily life, as well as the dangers.

Even in promoting awareness of a cause, we tend to read and share articles and posts via Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. And this is wonderful; don’t get me wrong. But when we don’t look up, what are we missing?

Over the last few days, I’ve been working on a presentation to educate people on the signs of human trafficking while they’re going about their daily routine. So much is hidden in plain sight. It just takes notice. A second look. Trafficking victims aren’t just in brothels. They’re at bus depots and other transportation hubs. While you’re at a stoplight, sipping your coffee, they may be on the street corner or at a tourist attraction where you’re buying tickets for your family.

I know sometimes life can be so overwhelming; we actually don’t want to see. We’d rather just hunker down and get through our day. But in taking that second look, you may well give someone a chance at a future that is no longer bleak, or ever allowed to skid down a path of misery in the first place. Because of you, someone else might later observe that same person and be able to smile, warmed by the hopeful moment captured that otherwise might not have been.

What experience have you had, where taking a second look, made all the difference to you or someone you love? Or maybe even to a stranger?

If you’re interested, here’s the link for signs of human trafficking, via The A21 Campaign.

17 comments on “Be A Writer For A Few Minutes Every Day

  1. In my experience as a guardian ad litem (advocate for foster children), I had many opportunities for second looks. However, not the way one might think. The obvious, of course, is to look beyond the bad behavior of some of these kids and fully empathize with their attachment issues. The less obvious was to take a second look at the foster parents.

    They get a bad rap, for the most part, because we only hear the bad stories…the bad stepmother/Cinderella stories. My experience opened my eyes to adults who were braving their way through a terribly intrusive process. Social workers, psychologist, tutors, guardian ad litems in their homes almost daily checking up, snooping around, questioning their foster child. I began admiring the depth of their desire. Because, contrary to what the majority thinks, they are not paid enough to even cover the costs of raising that child.

    It was a startling second look. And I’m humbled to have met many dedicated foster parents.

    • Jacquie, this is a subject that I know very little about, but would like to become more informed. Maybe we can do a post on it sometime soon! Thanks for showing us a glimpse of this issue from a perspective not often shown.

  2. While waiting for the Eurostar train back from Paris I was feeling sorry for myself as my feet really hurt. I felt hot, dizzy and a bit sick – I think I was suffering from a touch of sun stroke. I sat and watched the passers-by all rushing around seemingly oblivious to those surrounding them.
    I took a second look when I saw a piece of paper flutter down from a strangers pocket as he dashed past me. No one else seemed to notice or care. I called after him a number of times before I managed to get his attention. So glad I did – it was his train ticket to get home and he wouldn’t have been allowed on the train without it. At the prices you have to pay for last minute trains you certainly wouldn’t want to buy another!

      • Haha, I’ve never thought of myself as observant as I think I spend a lot of time in my own little world. I try to be a caring person (and like most sometimes fail) but what struck me was that no one else seemed to care at all!

  3. Oh, this is so, so good, Marney. I studied abroad in college in London and I remember so many days just wandering down Victoria Street or wherever and experiencing sooo many senses. It’s easy to do that in a new, amazing place. It’s harder to do in my every day life. But when I do take that second or third look, that’s when I actually “see” people, I think.

    • You’re right; it’s much easier to be open to “seeing” when you’re in a new place. What a fantastic experience to have studied in London. Would love to hear more about it.

  4. I love this post, Marney. It’s so important, especially in our culture today, to slow down and actually notice the world around us. Like you pointed out, tragedies can be right in front of our eyes. Or miracles. And we can be part of it if we put away the electronic devices and take time to care about people. 🙂

    • Thanks Shelley for your kind words. I’m finding that I definitely need to seek out the beauty and “miracles”, too, because all the dark stuff can be overwhelming if that’s all I concentrated on. Whew. That would not be good. It would lead to burnout. Always a balance, isn’t it?

  5. Marney,
    Taking a second look at this post made me realize it was about so much more than writing and the need to be observant if we want to be good writers. You deftly wove in the passion of your heart — educating people about human trafficking.
    Going to share this link on my FB pages.

  6. Hi Marney,

    Thank you for this inspiring and insightful post. As I type now, the window next to my little kitchen table is open, letting in the gentle pleasantness of a breeze, the cooing of doves, and various chirping and squawking bird songs. It’s so peaceful, and it allows my heart to settle and remember that the one who created all of this is the source of peace for all of us, whether we need a miracle or need to be part of a miracle. I think these quiet little intermissions of noticing can become an antidote to the vague distraction of a crowded mind and suffocated spirit.

  7. Having volunteered a lot with adolescents, I’ve always had a passion for youth. However, in a divine turn of events, my career brought me to a new population – those with a bit more salt-than-pepper in their hair. My new career has taught me to see the geriatric population in a new light. Their struggles can be great…long-term care, health, caregiving, finances and widowhood. At the same time, they have a lot of life and personality that I hadn’t noticed before. I have gained tremendous respect for this population, as I learn from them each day.

    BTW: love the squirrel tail hair analogy, I can very much relate 🙂

  8. I’ve just discovered your blog, Marney, and I’m glad I did. (You liked my post about graphic facilitation0. Your site is very grounding as you show such empathy for those who have less and need it. Thanks for finding me so that I might find you!

    • Hi Elaine, thanks for joining the blog! Your post on graphic facilitation was really interesting. A very gifted artist at our church will sometimes paint a canvas in the background while our pastor delivers a sermon. Creates a great combo for visual and auditory learners.


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