On seeing the world as writers do: Ueland’s excercise in microscopic truthfullness


Sure, a writer writes, but is there more to it than that? Reading Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write,  I have started to wonder if being a writer is also about seeing the world in a particular way—being present to what is happening around you, observing details that others might gloss over, and when possible, writing the down and storing them up for some later creation.

I like this idea. I want to develop this way of perceiving the world, of being a writer rather than just doing as a writer, and so today I attempted to follow some of Ueland’s advice to

“Write microscopically, truthfully….don’t try to make it sound smooth and mellifluous, but write with exquisite and completely detached exactness.” In other words, instead of creating a character from imagination, one that risks becoming an unconvincing, homogenous ‘type’, describe someone from the real world–in all their messy complicated richness.

Hence, I spent a solid ten minutes staring at the girl at the table next to me and documenting her in my notebook. Aside from feeling like a naked man in a trench coat, the experience was actually quite useful as it forced me to use new words and terms to capture and express reality, and in doing so gain new vocabulary that I may be able to use one day to deepen, or make real, my writings.

Of course, now the challenge is doing this on a regular basis (and in a way that doesn’t make me look totally lecherous), but it’s a start.

2 thoughts on “On seeing the world as writers do: Ueland’s excercise in microscopic truthfullness

  1. Sounds like a beautiful albeit a tad scary way (for the unsuspecting subject) to be inspired to write 🙂

    Thank you for sharing about Brenda Ueland – Will check out her writing once I can.
    Do take care and keep writing, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s