From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, October 27, 2014

How Recording One Second A Day Will Make You A Better Writer

I have never been super great at living in the present. Doing the whole "live in the moment" kind of thing. My mind is always thinking about my novel and the short stories I'm working on and the agents I've submitted to and ideas for social media. I am pretty much always projecting into the future, imagining how things might be.

Basically this:

Then a while ago I listened to this incredible TED Talk from a guy who did a project recording one second every day. Just one second.

I remember that idea really hitting me. He talks about how there were days when it was really hard, and days when he had to be creative, and it ended up really making him focus on how each day was different and unique.

In other words, it helped him live in the moment.

So why do writers want or need to live in the moment? Why will it make us better writers? Well, as an example, my Monday/Thursday blog schedule has presented me with some interesting challenges, and not ones I necessarily expected. Especially with the more personal Thursday posts, where my goal is more connection and entertainment than information and instruction, like the Monday posts. But I've often found myself having a difficult time coming up with ideas or topics when I sit down to write my Thursday posts. I find myself thinking, "What can I say that's entertaining? I work and I write, that's about it."

Living in the moment provides us writers with the material. And it's something I'm working on improving. When I make a conscious effort each day to think about why this day is unique and different, or why my particular situation or view on the world is different, then I start seeing more of the richness of life. And that richness is exactly what provides the stories and ideas and thoughts we writers need, not just for personal style blog posts, but for any writing we ever do.

So how do we do it? How do we get better at noticing and observing and gathering the day-to-day things into usable material?

We record one second every day.

And by no means does it have to be video recording either. In fact I suggest three other methods of recording and observing our day that might even be more useful for a writer.

1. Write in a journal. I've made a rule for myself recently that I must write in my journal every day, even if its just once sentence. Just one sentence is enough. This has helped me temper my natural tendency to project into the future rather than noticing that actual lived moment. It helps me go over my day and think about what I did that was different than every other day, even its only one thing. And I can go back and look over the journal too to remind myself and find stories. We are writing anyway, right? If you don't currently write in a journal, try out just one sentence a day and see what it does for you.

2. Take one picture. Okay, so we already know I'm a bit of a social media nut, but Instagram is my newest obsession. (I go through phases). Don't worry, I'm not here to suggest that every writer use Instagram. My point is that increasing my activity with it has forced me to look for unique and beautiful images throughout my day. It's forced me to take notice of my day, even in the things I do all the time like drive to work or go grocery shopping. In other words, taking pictures has made me open my eyes a little more and be more observant. These little moments of discovery or interest that we all have throughout our days, if we notice them, and even if they're not major events, are exactly the types of moments we use in all kinds of writing. And even if you're not one who likes sharing pictures everywhere, try it out for your own sake. Make a goal to just take one picture a day and see what happens.

3. Call someone. Now that my family is a little more grown up and a little more spread out, I have to make a conscious effort to keep in touch. We call each other a lot. And when you talk to someone on the phone, it not only forces you to go over your day and find the stories, you get to listen to someone else do that for their day too. And I think both are incredibly valuable. We've already talked about how going over our days can be a great help, but going over another persons day adds that extra layer, that extra depth. You get to hear the unique differences and stories from other peoples day-to-day lives too. This is exactly how we train our inner eye to notice those daily things that are beautiful and unique and that matter. Plus, talking with the people in this world that you love just makes you feel happy. And that's a good thing.

So why take the effort of recording and going over and analyzing our days? Because it helps us live in the moment and find the stories that are already there, and that already have meaning. And meaningful stories is exactly what writing is all about. So try writing in a journal and taking pictures and calling someone up every once in a while. Gather these stories, and maybe next time you start a project, whether its a novel or a blog post, your bout of writers block won't be quite as bad.

Write on!

Sarah Allen

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  1. I'd seen that clip of one second a day. That took dedication.
    I'm taking more photos of Mini-Alex. Does that count?

    1. I think that totally counts! It not only documents your day, it looks at life a little bit through someone elses eyes.

  2. This is something I should do more. I used to journal but now it seems like I'm always working on something and or facing a deadline.

    1. Agreed. This is why I'm focusing on a tiny bit every day, like one picture or one sentence.

  3. What a great post this is. Whether you're a writer or not, (writing, recording or photographing) a clip of a second of your life "should" make a difference in how you write, interact and live.

    1. Thank you!! And exactly :) It just changes our focus and perspective a little bit, and that can be extremely helpful.

  4. As usual another great post by Sarah!

  5. These are such great tips...I resemble the writers in that cartoon way too much! Once you're published, the worrying doesn't stop either. I believe that writing makes us better at living, though. We tend to observe life more than most people. Plus it gives our minds plenty to do when we're stuck somewhere with nothing to do!

    1. Yeah, I'm those characters too :) So many things to think about! And yes, I think its a positive feedback loop of learning to observe and practicing noticing the world around us.

  6. Yes. Living in the moment, being still and looking around, taking in what is happening around us are all good things to do if you want to write realistically. Excellent advice--thank you. I loved the toon. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

    1. Thanks! I love Debbie's cartoons :) And yes, I hope it can help. Even when we write science fiction and fantasy, I think noticing those details and meaningful little things in our day to day lives can be incorporated into our fiction to make it more vibrant and relateable.

  7. I'm terrible on the phone. I have been for years. Someone even suggested I have a real case of telephobia (fear of phones). It scares the bejesus out of me to think about being on the phone with someone and running out of things to say. How awkward would that moment be??

    That out of the way, I admire people who do it all day, every day. I can see how making one phone call each day would give people writing material and help them live in the moment. Unfortunately for me, my moment on the phone would be spent cowering in a dark corner of my closet, probably near tears :(

  8. A single sentence is a great idea and so doable! I'll definitely try this and the one photo a day!


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