Focusing on the present: Editor's Notes, April 2005
Published: February 25, 2005
|One of the conditions of working on a magazine is that work and life exist in parallel time zones--real time and magazine time (three months ahead). In real time, I see four- to six-foot snowbanks outside my window. My aching muscles remind me of the three hours my husband and I spent shoveling after a magnificent blizzard a few days ago.|
I catch myself wanting to write about winter, but in magazine time I know you're reading this in spring. "Think 60-degree days and apricot tulips in the front yard," I tell myself.
As an editor, I'm most often looking ahead, but as a writer, I don't want to miss what's going on right now.
This straddling of time frames is ongoing not only for editors, but for anyone who has projects that extend into the future. Sometimes, we get so caught up with what lies ahead that winter blends into spring, spring into summer and summer into fall without our due attention.
I was reminded of the importance of observing and writing down unique details from right now when I read U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser's practical advice on using detail in poetry (page 17), one of the best articles on writing I've seen.
"Paying attention to even the smallest events can yield a poem"--or a short story, essay or article. Using details makes your writing better. Unexpected detail will give your writing authenticity, Kooser writes.
This winter day, for example, I jotted down a few notes about a jacketless guy in his 20s with an earring and mussy green-streaked hair who made me laugh when he used a canoe paddle, very effectively I might add, to help dig out my daughter's snow-buried car.
Skipping ahead to the day you're reading this, I wonder: What's happening in your house, your yard and on your street, right now? I hope you're writing it all down.