Inspiration comes from opening your eyes.

Top Teacher Tips from Professor Joe Moran (Liverpool)

Good writing often starts with learning to really notice the world. It comes from carefully looking at how other people talk and behave or how the natural world unfolds, and noting your own thoughts, feelings and actions as if you were writing about a stranger. Even if your piece of writing is completely made up, it will most likely have its beginnings in this patient observation of reality.

Now, in lockdown, with your movements restricted and your normal routines on hold, you have a great opportunity to really notice your little portion of the world. Out of this noticing may come the idea for a piece of writing.

Notice how your family talk to each other. How do they come to collective decisions, make jokes, tell stories? Make a note of their dialogue. It’s a good way of learning how people actually talk to each other. (Clue: they don’t talk in complete sentences, or give away the author’s message!)

Notice nature out of your window, or when out doing your daily exercise. There are fewer planes in the sky now. So what has taken their place? How do birds move about in the air? How do they rest on television aerials, and for how long? How do clouds scud across the sky? Are the leaves on the trees fully-grown or half-formed? Do they let sunlight through them?

Notice the weather, and be specific. Is it windy enough to make a blade of grass sway? How does the earth smell after rain? Where exactly is the sun in the sky and how does it alter the way that light reflects off car windows or the walls of houses?

It is probably less noisy than before. So what can you hear that you didn’t hear before? How are the footsteps of passers-by all subtly different? How does the (probably rare) sound of a passing car or delivery van intrude on the silence?

Notice other people’s lockdown rituals. Do they take the dog for a walk at a particular time? Do neighbours shout across the street at each other? What do they say?

If you learn to notice the world like this, you will never be short of something to write.

Joe Moran is the author of First You Write a Sentence (Penguin)


Write a comment