Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Panhandling

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jul• 05•13

“Along with a great deal of sensitivity, you need to develop and practice the habit of noticing: a flicker of a facial muscle that suggests anger; the tone beneath words being spoken; the movement of wind in the linden trees; the bagging at the knees of a pair of pants; what your grandmother’s apron smelled like when she pulled you in for a hug; how, when you bite your cheek, the blood tastes in your mouth. You need to study your species and your habitat, and then you need to be like my daughter, Julie, when she was three years old and saw tannish sand from the snow plows covering the white. “The snow looks just like crumb cake,” she said, and she was absolutely right. You need to notice all the time, and then tell what you saw in a new way. As for the notion that everything has already been said, maybe it has, but life is like meatloaf: there are so many different ways to present it. What’s unique about you is what makes your writing interesting, and what makes it shine. It is yet another reason why you should never try to imitate other writers.

You need to be a panhandler: you need to collect all you notice and then sift through it for the gold; you need to be discerning. You need a sense of restraint, a sense of timing. You need to know when to hold back and when to put those nuggets in; your writing should be like a river, flowing, changing, bringing the reader along on an unpredictable ride. “ Elizabeth Berg

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One Comment

  1. Olivia Ashe says:

    I try not to imitate other writers, but yet, I sometimes feel my writing is too different from theirs.