Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Writing Habits: Noticing and Nurturing your Imaginings

Written By: Jessica Morrell - May• 16•19

I preach the gospel of pay attention. In fact I preach it a lot. Because while some stories are meant to be written, must be written, it’s the smaller details that bring scenes, moments, characters to life. And for that a writer needs to be plugged in to her surroundings, an observer, a collector, a detective.

Here are some things to notice in your daily gatherings that will in turn feed your imaginings:




  • First impressions when you meet a new person, especially body language and mannerisms.
  • The varying tones in a person’s voice and laughter.
  • Fleeting facial expressions.
  • The way music makes you feel.
  • How a person walks into a room or new environment.
  • How people hold their hands, use their hands when they talk.
  • The colors and hues of sunrise, sunsets, clouds, sky before and after storms.
  • What is unsaid in a conversation, but still pulses beneath it.
  • Moon phases and what exactly waxing gibbous means and how the phases affect nighttime visibility.
  • Starlight and constellations. Two words writers: look up.
  • Smells/scents of each season and each building you enter, neighborhood you visit.
  • Background sounds–the music playing at your favorite stores, the hubbub at Costco, the other diners and kitchen sounds in a restaurant, traffic sounds including sirens wailing, freeway noise coming from far away. How do the sounds make you feel?
  • Cozy, ‘lullaby’ sounds–what sounds make  you feel safe, comforted, easy?
  • Old photos–collect them at garage sales, antique stores, flea markets.
  • Plants growing in sidewalk cracks, under logs, in shaded or overlooked places, abandoned fields or yards, empty lots.



  • How a person’s eye color changes in varying lighting.
  • How emotions are reflected in a person’s eyes.
  • How people react to surprises, shocking news, crises.
  • Body parts–arthritic knuckles and knees, the graceful lines of a young girl’s neck, the shell colors of eyelids, a baby’s joints, feet, hands.
  • The way people look when they’re diminished by grief, pain, illness. How do they hold their bodies? Where does grief reveal itself in the body?
  • The belongings/keepsakes a person holds most dear.
  • Weathered buildings, abandoned buildings, old wood and bricks, crumbling walls.
  • Portals and entries that lead to gardens, alleys, neighborhoods.
  • Sounds carried on the wind.
  • Sounds of weather, wind, and bodies of water.
  • Chalk art, children’s art, an artist’s brush strokes.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep collecting

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