writer in progress: learn from the little

The first secret of good writing: We must look intently, and hear intently, and taste intently. ... We must look at everything very hard. -- James J. Kilpatrick

Once again, some of the best writing lessons come from watching my niece. Watching her intent expression as she studies everything, as she looks at everything very hard.

Little writer in training, perhaps? Not that I've been reading her my writing advice books. Well... not often.

Spending just two full days with her (and for the best and loveliest of reasons!), I'm amazed all over again at what she notices. The spot of chocolate on the floor, the faint freckle on the back of my hand, the way a paisley print looks like a turtle.

She sees it all, and points it out earnestly to me.

And there it is, a tiny slice of world at the tip of her finger.

And I'm so grateful to her--for many reasons, but this is certainly one of them. She slows me down, brings me close, and helps me notice, helps me see everything like she does. The little things.

Together we crouch down and look intently, we look very hard.

A vital refocusing. And today, on my own, I'm noticing, looking very hard at the new burst of flowers on our crabapple, looking at the little hyacinths, blooming when we thought they were dead.

I thought everything was dead with the freak snow last weekend. But no, everything is blooming, and so I'm hopeful for the rest of spring.

That trick candle hope. I had given up on so many things, and now, suddenly, I'm eager for the lilacs to come, craning my head to spot the early tulips.

And when they come, I'll take a cue from my niece and put my face up to them, too close, and let my eyes refocus, and then, and then, I'll see what I can see.


  1. I have two nieces who help me to see things in new ways each time I spend time with them. We are lucky.

  2. I have a niece too, and she is never a problem, it is amazing except when she throws the cds in the recycling. If we would all slow down and appreciate the moment, certainly children that age are never bored, I am not bored too, nature is so exciting!