It is that moment when you are emotionally moved, when you are shocked, in awe. When damage is done or redemption is realized. The epiphany, the dumbfound, the fear and delight – sometimes small, sometimes large. Sometimes public, often private.
Take note, for these are the turns in which the writerly aesthetic lives.
To observe in such moments is human. To realize that the observation is material to be creatively mined, this is writerly. This is the skill – to learn to harness, capture, and form the energy of experience into craft.
Here are a pair of examples:
I have a fellow writer who recently wrote a poem about a drunk driver hitting a tree in his front yard in the middle of the night. For most people this is a story you tell over coffee with friends. Everyone is amazed and this spurs a series of stories of drunken tragedy. But for the writer, this is an experience that can only be properly dealt with by being set down in language.
Another fellow writer recently wrote a poem about sitting on an airport bus and receiving an email that he’d just been fired. This is more private, but is it less violent? Not as he tells it. Not as revealed in short, stark lines.
In both cases we are escorted past what happened and shown the residue of truth we might otherwise miss.
We fail our craft when we are like all other mortals, when we let our experiences simply come and go. Let us do the work of shining our spotlight on such moments.
Our readers will be the richer for it.