I often tell my students to think of writing as taking a photograph—but of your thoughts. Writing freezes time. As we live in such exceptional times, I invite you to delve into your inner world through writing (even if you don’t really write) and take a snapshot.
I say this as someone experienced with writing features, which requires keen observation skills, an ability to dig beneath the surface, and the knack for getting to a subject’s core. Features are largely human stories and we read them because they are heartfelt, compelling, and intimate. Features help us zoom in to a part of a more complicated whole, allowing us to linger there. They include lots of small, seemingly unimportant details but that’s exactly what makes them so memorable.
Details grab us because everyone sees the world differently. So taking the time to write about your life now, including the details of whatever’s happening—the crisp blue of unblemished skies, or the silent, heavy fear you see in someone’s eyes as they shuffle past—will help you remember this experience years down the road.
In my experience teaching writing, beginner writers often lack ideas: what to write about when you could write about anything? But it’s easier than you think: just get personal.
Let’s say you want to write about Paris, the city of love. Only there are thousands (if not more) of articles on this exact topic. So, start with what you know. Maybe you spent an evening sipping cognac in a Parisian grandmother’s apartment, discussing how life has changed over the decades. Or maybe you’re an avid cyclist and entertained the idea of navigating the Seine by bike. Start with what only you can offer.
And remember that those small, seemingly unimportant details eventually build a bigger picture. It could be your sense of relief working at home in worn pajamas, rather than a tight suit. It could be a renewed appreciation for random acts of kindness, especially if you’re the recipient. For me, it would be losing all sense of time—Monday feels like Tuesday, and March feels like May—which I find liberating, making me feel like 9-years old all over again.
Reflecting back on our experiences helps us grow. And writing, especially, gives us a detailed account of how those moments looked and their impact.