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Writing below the surface: Editor's Notes #374
September 21, 2022

Art cannot result from sophisticated, frivolous, or superficial effects.
—Hans Hofmann

In this issue:

1. Writing below the surface
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1.Writing below the surface
Life largely consists of strings of mundane events. We take routines for granted. We overlook sporadic occurrences. On the surface, not much changes from day to day.

Recently, I had occasion to stop to examine trivial episodes in my own life. I was forced into a slower pace, and instead of gnawing my nails and pacing in circles, I paused and thought about things I usually overlook.

The result was a flurry of writing that surprised me and got me thinking about the ways our writing improves when we pause to go below the surface of things.

First we have to get below the surface, to get to the interior or the core of things. This often takes time and a shift in focus.

One way to spark a new focus is to ask, "What does this remind me of?" That simple question often sets off a series of thoughts about other events or people or ethical considerations or philosophical debates; the list of pathways is endless and enriches our writing.

Once we have begun to muse beyond the obvious, we open a door to meaningful metaphors, illustrations to help explain difficult points we want to make, themes to add to our stories. We find seeds for new thoughts for ourselves and our readers.

I was forced by circumstances to shift my focus. Having done that in the recent past and found doing so exceedingly helpful to my writing, I intend to continue carving out time to look more carefully at other events in my own life, the lives of those around me, and the events of characters I populate stories with.

How do you reach below the surface in your writing?

What could you try to help you shift your focus to open yourself to unexpected understandings?

2.Tickled my funny bone
He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination. —Andrew Lang With thanks to Albert Hall

3. Interesting Web site
Not everyone can deepen a character or a scene simply by shifting focus without additional guidance. Here is one editor’s suggestions for adding to the worth of a scene through guided questions.

4. Writing prompt
Choose a mundane or routine event in your life or in the life of one of your characters as a starting point. Investigate it from several vantage points, possibly using the ideas from the Interesting Web site above that appeal to you. Write what you learn or rewrite your own piece in a way that makes it more vital and gives it more depth.

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