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"For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves."
A Hand Writing on a clipboard


 Dave E. Hoyt

 Part 2: The Expanse of a Writer's World

Writing and Film

The union of writing and film has given many writers exposure beyond their dreams. Growing-up, Walt Disney Movies held a place of honor among my peers. My father met Walt Disney in a restaurant in Pasadena California and said he was modest, likeable and friendly. Beginning in the late 1940’s Walt Disney Studios took the lead in producing cartoons and later films for the whole family.

Disney Castle

Excellent screen writing, creative art and animation teams forged an inseparable bond utilizing literary classics along with new writers and animators who helped birth hundreds of great films. We easily recognize recent Disney Films that have been released in local theaters like; The Chronicles series, The National Treasure series, Pirates of the Caribbean series, Secretariat, Three Musketeers, The Cars series and many more.

Some of Disney’s earliest animated successes were Peter Pan, Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio and Lady and the Tramp.  Middle Disney films included the villain of all time, Cruela Deville—in  101 Dalmatians. In recent years, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Robinhood, Tangled, Little Mermaid and many more Disney films have been released continuing to capture the imagination of young people and adults alike.  Disney’s quality and success has spanned some sixty years and is still going strong employing the works of countless writers from past generations and those alive today!

GoofyLion KingMickey Mouse
Children’s Books   

In the literary world of children’s books many of the classics continue to inspire the hearts and minds of young readers. Among the greats are Arabian Nights, Robinson Crusoe, Tales of Mother Goose, Tale of Two Cities, A Dog of Flanders, Little Women, A Christmas Carol, Gulliver’s Travels, Aesop’s Fables, Through the Looking Glass, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Raggedy Ann Stories, The Hardy Boys Series, The Nancy Drew Series, Black Beauty, Heidi, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Jungle Book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, White Fang, The Lost World, The Call of the Wild, Little House on the Prairie, The Railway Children, The Blue Fairy Book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, The Velveteen Rabbit, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Secret Garden, Treasure Island and hundreds more.  These and many more imaginative works have been carefully birthed by authors who dared to believe someone would be interested in reading what they wrote. 

Doable—Baby Steps

Through persistence and diligent work they dedicated themselves to the task of putting their ideas, imagination, characters, plots, adventures and dreams into a written form. Sentences became paragraphs, paragraphs soon formed chapters and chapters became literary works fashioned into books or films. When taking on a larger writing project many authors focus on one chapter at a time; a more sizable goal – then move to the next. Henry Ford had a firm grasp of this useful principle, saying, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”

Every chapter in a book is edited and re-edited, tightened, scrutinized, checked for color and flow and improved where needed. Throughout this process the unique writing voice of each author remains embedded in the text which makes the work a one-of-a-kind piece of literary art.

It’s helpful to remember that most of the classics were written out long-hand—over and over again. Each edit was without the convenience of a typewriter, or computer. Facing this daunting task, the author plodded along patiently with determination and resolve. There was no other way, or option—other than throwing their hands in the air and attempting to destroy what had already been written.

Stephen King did this with his first book, but his wife dug the manuscript out of the trash can and it became his first big seller—“Carrie.” After receiving piles of rejection letters a young Stephen King struggled with the value and marketability of his words, feeling they might not be good enough. The writer’s market is tough to break into, but it still happens daily. The cream still rises to the top!

Good Questions to Ask

“What am I writing about, who will my targeted readers be and what do I want to say? Do I want my words to inspire, teach, unravel a mystery, be filled with intrigue, awe, or help another to smile or laugh? In the telling of my story or poem—will I touch on beauty, romance, love, courage, hope, human struggle, freedom, or inspire faith in humanity, or God? Perhaps I’ll venture to an opposite setting where suspense, fear, violence and danger have a frightening grip on the readers.

I grew up in Arcadia California. The next little town over was Sierra Madre where part of the, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was filmed in 1956. A number of us rode our bikes a mile or so up the road, to watch the filming. When we saw the completed version of the film some locals were convinced we were going to be replaced by clones soon to emerge from pods in the basements of local homes and department stores. The film and writing left its impact—aliens were afoot!   

Every author makes a personal choice about the subject matter they wish to research, explore, and become familiar with. Some have the life experience indelibly written on their soul and have first-hand familiarity with a subject. It could be about a summer you spent with a family member fishing and riding horses bare-back, spending hours watching the clouds and changing skies, swimming in the river with fish nibbling at your toes and panning for gold with your miter box and faithful dog at your side. God knows we need some “good memory images” to draw upon and write about.

In the quietness of our own spirit we choose what to write about. My favorite subject matter in stories and films has always been the bond between people and animals, or between animals. A good horse, dog, porpoise, elephant, wolf, cheetah, or some other animal book or movie that explores a bond of friendship that’s developed between man and animal, or between animals—hits my sweet spot. This type of story warms my heart in some mysterious way and leaves me with good feelings. To date I haven’t written on this subject, but hope to. The photo of the Dog and Cheetah below is a visual of a relationship that developed as the two were raised from pup and cub together. Interestingly, the dog is the “Alpha” of the pair and can outlast the Cheetah in running long distances. The coolest part of watching them interrelate is that they are deeply bonded as adults—inseparable buddies!

dog with cheetah

Real life drama is captivating. A recent film of Les Miserables with Liam Neeson playing lead is an example. It covers a wide breadth of human experience by allowing viewers to see the world of crime, motive, deception, forgiveness, inability to forgive, revenge fixation, redemption, cruelty, suffering, sickness, sin, compassion, religion, death, war, loyalty and love. The book, the theatrical productions and the movie renditions have touched the hearts of multiple thousands—because the story is honest and true to life.

Those who currently live in countries ravaged by genocide, terrorism and war—have difficult, yet factual accounts that need to be told. Someone’s voice or writing must document the truth! In doing so, courage, compassion, forgiveness, healing and love will surface out of the ashes of suffering, destruction and death. 

An author’s core beliefs and convictions compels them to ask, “Would I dare write on and describe the darkness of rejection, hate, abandonment, stubbornness, destructive pride, abuse, torture, murder and the cruelty that feeds prejudice, fear and hatred? Will I stand up to and unmask corruption, vice, human manipulation and exploitation as a moral duty through my writing? Do I have the courage to expose the lies and atrocities committed by governments and dictators? Would, or could I face my own demons and short-comings with honest pen-strokes that reveal some of the embarrassing deeds and mistakes I’ve made, or seen others close to me, or my own family make?”

This type of writing is not for the faint of heart. There is a vast difference in the vocation and work of a person who plants beautiful flowers and trees—to that of the pathologist who cuts open dead-bodies on a regular basis. From flowers to an autopsy is a huge leap in subject matter. Amazingly, the same person could research and write on both.

Avoid Evil and Perverse Subject Matter
There are some things money can't buy

I would not be honest if I were to shirk from saying that some authors have sold their soul to the devil—choosing to write about and represent that which is evil, deviant and riddled with perversion. They have no conscience about plunging a reader into the depths of this darkness because they represent the “evil one” who seeks to destroy the souls of men. Smut and the demonic is the consistent perverted theme of these fallen writers who vomit out human-depravity to addicted, undiscerning readers and viewers. My advice is, don’t pay for, read or watch what is evil! It doesn’t matter if it’s free, or costs ten-cents at a garage sale. Reading or watching this subject matter is equivalent to jumping into a toxic bath of chemicals that will rot your body, mind and soul—causing blindness and spiritual darkness to engulf you.

Remember the Parable of Transporting something of great value through a mine-field of obstacles and robbers. Guard your soul from these robbers and con-artists. No matter what anyone is paid for writing rubbish—like the drug dealer who gets rich by destroying others’ lives—don’t become a pimp of that which is evil!

So Many Amazing Topics to Write On

Sci-Fi enthusiasts may find it fun to write about other worlds, alien life-forms and new planetary and galaxy exploits. Action lovers might choose to review their favorite action movies for a creative jump-start to new and fresh ideas, fictitious characters and action adventures that defy reason and convey the fullest expanse of the human imagination. The recent movie “Cowboys and Aliens” wove an ingenious plot teaming these seemingly opposites into an entertaining movie.

On the lighter side, some writers were born to write comedy and see the wacky side of things. They love coming up with unexpected twists and turns, good dialogue and an outrageous combinations of characters. I really liked the animated wart hogs and their song “Hakuna Matata” in the movie “Lion King.” The contrasting evil of the cunning hyenas was an equally effective pairing of animation characters placing suspense into the story. When Harrison Ford played a cowboy bank robber and Gene Wilder a Jewish Rabbi going west in the film “The Frisco Kid” it was an outlandish pairing of characters combined with humorous writing and dialogue that worked well. “Twins” was another comedy with most unlikely brothers, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito.  Brothers?  

Exploring Our Inner and Outer World

What are the things you know something about—life experiences that are familiar, topics you could incorporate into a writing project? What are your experiences in friendship, loyalty, forgiveness, care-giving, comfort and love that you can easily recall? In the good, bad and ugly of life, what have you encountered first-hand? Are there some evil witches from the north, or low-life cheats you’ve met face to face? Are there individuals you know, or have met who might embody a character in a story you write? Please, don’t use their name!

What inspires me to create, write, do-good and act on my convictions? Or, what causes my stomach to churn and fills me with disgust and anger?  What things touch the deepest part of my being and stir me to action. What do I feel deeply about it?  Writing about these things with confidence is easy. The interest and conviction is already imbedded. It pumps us up! We just need to develop the art of “stringing words together.”

I’m convinced that in almost every area of life, we are the strongest, when we believe what we’re doing. Being inspired is often the result of seeing something that needs to be done and doing it with all our might and energy—like loving God with all our soul, mind and strength. Yes, I came to realize, He’s the author of everything in the universe!    

In a practical world, what moves us could be a project we take on. These causes may have a vital written or artistic aspect to spreading the word and gaining support. We can embrace something we love, or fight something we hate. What are those things we feel compelled to release our passion and energy into? Is there some area we want to make a difference in—to bring social or spiritual change to our world?

“Mothers Against Drunk Drivers” was started because of the senseless death of children by drunk drivers. Every mother who has lost a child by death, caused by a drunk driver, or some other senseless act of violence has experienced a type of pain that touches the deepest part of the human heart. Moms and families have united in an effort to bring about change and stop drunk drivers. Their work has saved countless lives—raising awareness and promoting designated drivers.

Diseases without a cure are cause for great concern to every family affected. Families often take up a cause in support of research to find cures for: Cancer, Ebola, Diabetes, HIV/Aids, Polio, H1N1, HCV (Hepititus C), HBC (Hepititus B), Influenza, Systemic Lupus, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease, Schizophrenia, Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy, Rota Virus, Cocci a lung spore disease (aka Valley Disease).  Other diseases are equally of great concern, like Autism which is rapidly increasing in the USA and abroad.  Parents are funding and pushing for more research to find a cure.

Through the Eyes of Real Life

Charity work is such a wonderful way to better understand the plight of another and gain an understanding life in another person’s shoes. What about coaching or mentoring, serving the homeless, elderly, or mentally challenged, volunteering in some area of need within the community?

Ronald McDonald House is an example of a charitable organization that many individuals support. It was established to meet a specific need by providing quality free housing near major hospitals for families that have a child undergoing surgery. I’ve visited one of the RM Houses in Cleveland Ohio. This particular RM House was like a mini hotel with private rooms on the inside and a spacious family room on the ground floor. It was two stories. Free drink machines were present and some snack machines were on a pay basis. There were 8-10 rooms. Whoever came up with the idea to make this happen provided and invaluable service for families who would otherwise be unable to afford paying for a hotel or motel room when a child’s testing, surgery and recovery time was extended. On my visit to Ronald McDonald House I did a visual scan of my surroundings—because I was so impressed.

We each draw from the sum-total of our life experience; every person we’ve met, what we’ve seen and the events we’ve experienced are stored somewhere in our memory. I can hear you saying, “If this is so, I must have had a memory crash, because I can’t find most of them!” We all forget lots of stuff. We don’t have our antennas up catching every detail—it would be exhausting. Instant recall sounds awesome—but it could also be overwhelming—especially when it comes to painful things we’ve seen or experienced.

On the flip side, we could easily miss important moments when we need to observe more. In the movie “Witness” a small Amish boy witnessed a murder. With clear and focused attention his eyes peered through a slit in the bathroom stall seeing the face of the killer, before retreating quietly to the back of the stall. Later he was able to identify the murderer in a picture on a bulletin board at the police precinct.  This identification revealed the killer was a rouge-cop. This was a valuable observation by a frightened young boy who still was able to focus!  

Our memory may be jarred to awareness by any number of encounters, or on its own. The taste of an ice cream recently took me all the way back to the exact location where I first tasted this flavor. A sound, color, smell, sight, or touch that occurred in the past can be triggered by some unusual connection that occurs in the present—in our brain, or by an emotion. We could blink our eyes and out of the blue find we’re thinking about and picturing a location where something real occurred in our past.

The emotions we felt at the time may resurface. We may have been laughing, happy, nervous, or fearful. We may have wanted to hug someone, or run away and disappear, as far away as possible. The ability to dip into our past can be an asset to a writer. Observation and dipping into our memory bank is important for a writer! The more we see, hear, feel, touch, or smell—the more we’ll have to recall and write about. I do it all the time.

Every young writer is in the process of strengthening their gift of stringing words together and painting word-pictures that will hopefully hold the reader’s attention. An adventure, mystery, or Sci-Fi author hopes to take their audience down a fascinating road where anything is possible. The unexpected becomes the norm with twists and turns that leaves the reader gripped with anticipation and intrigue as each chapter ends. The suspense of the unknown and what’s to come is a purposely embedded lure that leads the reader onward to turn another page.

Collaboration & Effect

Writing for theater, TV, or movies is a blending of the artistic whole. It’s a team endeavor. Actors, choreographers, set-design, music, script writing, lighting, special effects, sound, editing and more will be woven together. The lyricist needs the composer, orchestra or band to bring the lyrics to life. The author of a play, script, or movie needs the actors and all that goes along with each production. How will the audience be brought into the story? What will strike a chord of resonance with the listener? The writer of poems seeks to draw-in the reader or listener to a sliver of life, a moment in time, a feeling, or experience. The reporter seeks to collect the facts and synthesize the data in a chronological order of events and then present the salient points in an understandable, accurate, believable and non-biased manner.

many hands

The goals of writing are woven into a creative tapestry that seeks to entertain, inspire, inform, report, teach and lift the reader to new heights of understanding, conviction, perception, belief, imagination and evoke feelings, beliefs and convince. Vicariously the imagination is touched by the words chosen, the images and pictures painted and the facts, or story presented through the unique gifting of the author’s story-teller. 
I remember being told, “The power of writing is—it lives on!” In reading a book we can be transported to another place in time, perhaps near, or across the globe into settings and among people that we might otherwise never see, or know about.” Through the pages of an article, book, or poem, we are mysteriously drawn into the author’s world, and endowed with an opportunity to learn, grow, be entertained, discern and decide for ourselves about the content of what we’ve been exposed to. The reader is still king.

Was the read a good investment of time—worthy of a review, or referral? Did we learn something practical, was it fascinating, did we laugh or cry, could we see the characters in our mind’s eye and will we think about what we read for a long time? Were we inspired?  How did the author stir our emotions? Did we hate the villain? Will we take action in some personal area because of what has been said, or experienced? Are we challenged and convinced of the moral or spiritual truths the author has presented? Is this life-changing?

Verbatim Writing

Years ago I was accepted into a hospital chaplaincy internship at Licking Memorial Hospital in Newark, Ohio. Our senior chaplain was an extremely gifted individual who had served in this hospital for almost twenty years. As part of our training we were assigned a large medical floor with two wings. Our job was to visit patients and offer pastoral care for them and their families. We were also given rotating responsibilities in ER, the Children’s Unit and the Psych Ward, and were required to write a verbatim of some visits with patients and their families, or when a death occurred.

The skill of writing an accurate retelling of all you can remember about a visit, incident, setting, or event—is a “Verbatim.” When visiting hospital patients it involves the exchange of dialogue, body language, the physical condition, level of pain and discomfort, attitude, well-being of a patient—including noticeable details in the room.  Are there flowers, balloons or cards standing or laying flat somewhere? Is the patient receiving visitors, do they have family or close friends living nearby, are they expecting a visit? Is anyone calling and checking in with them? Are they a part of a church, expecting a pastor, priest, or rabbi to visit? Do they want to be prayed for, or just wish to talk and have someone listen? Are they despondent, discouraged and just want to be left alone? Are they angry and agitated wishing they were dead?

The clinical verbatim also includes a personal evaluation. How did I as a care-giver respond to them, dialogue with them, draw them out and gently secure information to better understand how to assist them at their unique point of need? Was I able to connect with them, offer hope or encouragement? How was I received and is there a welcome for a return visit? What could I have said or done that might have been more helpful? How did I feel if they asked me to leave them alone, give them privacy and go away?

The writing of a clinical verbatim was usually done as soon as possible after a patient visit, within the first few hours while everything was still fresh. I’ve mentioned this training discipline—because it helped me to be more aware of my environment and the people I encounter. It nudged me to becoming less self-absorbed and more outwardly in tune with others and what they may be experiencing and going through. Ultimately it helped me to be a better person, less self-centered, learning how to listen actively through a variety of means available in the setting. 

Keen Observation

Details in the mind of a writer is what puts meat and bones on a character and an image of the setting. Imagery can transport the reader into feeling like they can almost see a location, person, or an event that’s unfolding. The nuances of the senses and power of observation and deduction are some of the ingredients many readers love in ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ series. What others might easily miss in casual observance—Mr. Holmes sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches and is compiled into a deduction.  Holmes seems to gather his clues with the eyes of an eagle, ears of a wolf, smell of a bloodhound, taste of a fully aware human and touch sensitized to the smallest detail.  And most importantly, when a mystery challenge presents itself—he’s ready for action!

Osprey Eagle

Holmes’ unique attribute of having the eyes of an eagle is worth noting though we know this to be a mere saying. An eagle’s strength of vision is four times greater than a human—with a viewing range of 270 degrees—impressive qualities for a British detective. Oh, that we all could see like this. 

Every writer should seek to develop their awareness of surroundings and details. Good writers like Arthur Conon Doyle who developed the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes did an amazing job of creating the British detective character Sherlock Holmes and his partner Watson. Doyle develops these characters with such detail that they seem to come alive in his works. Holmes, quirks and all—has trained himself in the art of observation and deduction with the full commitment of his being. He is a veracious student of crime-solving and spares no amount of personal sacrifice when it comes to his work and preparedness. The investigators at Scotland Yard pale when placed alongside Holmes — confirming they are incompetent buffoons in comparison to the investigative instincts and abilities of Holmes. In humility, he tolerates them taking credit for many of the crimes that he and Watson solve. 

Holmes is a man of extreme detail and incredible self-discipline when it comes to the development of his abilities. With meticulous effort he’s trained his taste and smell to identify a variety of poisons that are used in murders. Entering a crime scene he’s able to gather a cluster of invaluable clues with keen observation through employing all of his senses—that Scotland Yard investigators miss entirely. In the course of each Sherlock Holmes mystery Doyle allows the reader to see how Holmes breaks down the most intricate of cases, step by step. One of my favorite short stories in this genre of writing is called, “The Story of the Lost Special”, found in the small book “The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.”

What I enjoy about mystery detective books, short-stories, TV programs or movies is; evidence is everywhere—ready to be discovered! The TV series “The Mentalist” gives a fresh spin on the power of careful observation and deduction in the character of a crime consultant named Patrick Jayne. Out of seemingly thin-air he consistently takes the lead in discerning the nuances of behavior, clues, and emotional slips that move a crime investigation closer toward a decisive and accurate conclusion in apprehending the perpetrator. Jayne’s out of the box thinking, personality probing and ability to use bait to lure in the criminal is curiously refreshing. He does so as a professional consultant with an interesting team of police detectives at his side. The writing is thoughtful, spurring on my attempt to solve the crime and discern who the bad people are while viewing it. 

scissors and equipment
Reading Different Authors

Try and learn from writers you enjoy reading by taking a close look at how they bring you into a given setting and describe it. How do they weave in dialogue, make points, string ideas together, develop characters, tell stories, give understandable illustrations and secure your interest in what they’re saying?

Reading a variety of authors can be a great way of broadening your exposure to different writing approaches and styles. Reading classic short stories is an excellent source because you’ll be reading many of the greatest authors of all time. In a short period of time you can decide by this overview—which authors and stories caught and retained your attention. Ask yourself, “Why?” Why did these few authors stand out among so many? Go back to their work, read something else by them—study their style and consider what you like about their writing. This is another way of learning by observation. In everyday life, begin taking in as much as you can by way of sensory awareness. I tried this recently and was reminded of how fun and educational this can be.

An Early Morning Observation

Early one morning, I slipped out my back door around 5:30 AM camera-in-hand and positioned myself to photograph a sunrise. At first light I heard a soft buzzing nearby and spotted a hummingbird hovering about three feet away checking me out. As I watched he flew closer and we made eye contact. He had reddish-brown wings, a tan roundish body and orange around his neck and on the crest of his head.  After about twenty seconds his interest faded and he flew off.

 Five minutes later I heard the swift wings of a second hummingbird coming in about two and a half feet from me to my left, hovering calmly. This little guy was gray and green with a touch of blue near his neck. He had a slender body and a longer dark brown beak. From the moment he showed up we made eye contact and he didn’t seem frightened. I’m positive I’ve seen him before and believe he’s a regular at our hummingbird feeder. After a few more seconds he too was off to check out other things in the garden and enjoy the beginning of a new day.

orange hummingbird

My sense was that both hummingbirds were pausing to see who was in the garden with them at this early hour. As always we have fresh sugar-water in a hummingbird feeder and garden flowers they enjoy sampling. Since we feed them and a wide variety of other birds—I concluded that I passed the test of being a friendly home owner—giving them nothing to fear.

It was now about 6 AM when I moved closer to our back-wall and I leaned my Canon camera on the top brick of the adobe-colored center-block. This is a good place to capture a sunrise because an arroyo butts up to our back wall and there are no building obstructions to block a clear view of the Sandia Mountains. The air was cool and refreshing and a beautiful sunrise was beginning to unfold with colors bursting into the sky filling it with wisps of yellows and oranges against a light and dark blue backdrop.

Turning my camera on I began shooting off some seventy-five shots—moving the camera gently from side to side while keeping it on the wall. I’ve learned that the additional stability without a tri-pod works well and prevents blurring. After ten minutes of shooting the sunrise colors begin to fade to pale yellows and I turn my camera off. This was a good shoot and I know from the camera’s review panel that I’d captured at least a handful of good images. While standing there the sky grew lighter still and I heard a rustling in the wood chips surrounding the rose bushes nearby, but couldn’t see what was moving about.

At this exact moment I spotted an early-morning arroyo walker pass at a fast pace some twenty feet away from our wall with two large dogs following him about twenty feet behind. One dog was a pure brown longhair that looked like he had a bit of Husky in him. The other was a black and white shorthair that was wearing a red scarf and collar around his neck. Both dogs were moving quickly, enjoying the cool morning air.

The sound of woodchips moving closeby brought my attention back to our yard—when suddenly a very large toad jumped and landed next to my feet! I quickly figured out what was happening because I’ve been an observer of these yard creatures for several years now and I stood perfectly still. Mr. Toad was on his way hopping back to a soft burrow in the dirt to escape the coming heat of another hot southwest day in New Mexico. Foraging for bugs through the night was over and he was ready to settle down for a rest. In route to his burrow he took another short hop, landing on a seven-inch lightly colored rock surrounding the rose bush nearest to me and I decide to take his picture.

His coloring is a mid-range green with splotches of darker green and he has an irregular cream colored line that runs all the way down his back about an eighth of an inch wide. The back of his legs and lower part of his back are stripped like a zebra. His bulging eyes have a puffy lid above them. His body is smooth but bumpy with short stocky legs and three long pointed toes that make up most of his feet. His jump is strong and confident. With a quick hop Mr. Toad was off again heading to his cool damp burrow. (In the winter months toads burrow down into the dirt a foot or more to escape the cold, hibernating until late spring.)

This observation of the hummingbirds, the morning walker with two dogs, and Mr. Toad heading home to his burrow to sleep-off his nightly foraging occurred over a period of approximately 40 minutes.        

A Writing Assignment

An exercise that’s always interesting is to set a time and place and conduct an experiment in observation. The two ingredients are: 1. Observation 2. Write as much as you can remember.

It’s very much like writing a Verbatim. Your goal is to pay attention to as much detail as possible. Make an effort to enlist all of your senses—drawing on sight, hearing, smell, feeling and touch. These senses will likely flow in and out and while conducting this exercise. The goal is to try and use each of them during observing. 

If you run out of ideas for a location, try a nature setting, a park, a coffee shop, a social event, a restaurant, a store, a family or friend gathering. If there’s a lot going on, focus on a smaller part of the bigger setting. Nature is always interesting and non-threatening but it’s nice if there are birds or animals to watch. Take in as much as possible, slipping in and out from a panorama view to close-up details—remembering to keep all five senses alert.  

When watching people—listen for voice intonation, observe body language and pay attention to the dialogue. View as many objects and details in a room or location and see how many you can write down afterwards. Watch facial expressions; observe a person’s eyes, hair color and clothes. Are there any noticeable smells? Is there anything to touch? If so, what does it feel like? Are you feeling any particular emotion being in this location? Are you peaceful, calm, content, happy, bored, nervous, anxious, or?

Listen to the types of laughter. How many different kinds of voices do you hear? Can you notice any subtle difference between a confident voice and a friendly voice, a light-hearted voice, a directive voice? Are there any bird or animal sounds, trees being brushed by the wind? Hundreds of details are all around us and could be a source, making a contribution to a story or poem you may choose to write.

Set a time limit for this exercise of 5-15 minutes and then slip away and jot down everything you remember afterwards.

How did you do? You be the judge regarding the value of observation. Practicing this exercise from time to time has been good for me. It increases my awareness of everything in my surroundings, gives me insights about detail and is fun. Not a bad tool for a writer!

To Be Continued 

A Reason to Write – Part 3 

(What’s Coming Next . . .)

God Bless you in your journey of writing!

Dave Hoyt

Dave Hoyt and his wife Ginny reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He grew up a troubled teen in Los Angeles. In 1966 he moved to San Francisco’s ‘Haight District’ seeking truth and God. Reaching a crisis of belief in eastern religions—he turned to prayer and came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. He was an early participant in the Jesus People Movement in the USA and Europe. He returned to school earning a master of divinity degree. Beyond, Dave & Ginny spent 25+ years serving in pastoral roles in the church, as a chaplain to struggling teens and later as a hospice chaplain. He and Ginny are followers of Jesus Christ. Work-wise Dave restores properties, writes, has a small photography business and does volunteer outreach ministry.




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Last Update: 2016-09-01 12:26