Vague writing rarely lingers in the mind of a reader. Have you ever read a description, an image, or a phrase that stayed with you long after you finished a book? Those words likely remained with you because they were detailed and specific.
Specificity is an often-overlooked quality that makes for excellent writing. This is great if you pay close attention to life around you and can recall it easily. But in the age of information overload, social media, and endless distractions, it can be a real challenge to remember our ideas and capture the details that accompany them.
How do we write in vivid detail when so many of us, regardless of genre, draw from experience and memory? This one simple practice can help: Write down details from your life experience every day.
This practice isn’t necessarily for your latest writing project. It’s not for your to-do list, for tracking submissions, or to brainstorm new ideas. Instead, set aside this time to write down any details, snippets of conversation, ideas, or images that you want to remember for a future project or date.
These details will serve you later when you sit down to write a personal essay, a how-to article, or the next chapter in your novel. You will have already captured the details from the deep well of your experience, so you won’t have to spend time and energy trying to remember or fabricate the specifics.
Five minutes and a few lines may be enough to capture the important details of the day. Are you freshest in the morning? Can you recall what happened the day before with clarity? Do you remember details best in the evening before you go to bed? Choose the same time each day. This is a daily habit that doesn’t require enormous blocks of time or even a lot of head space.
Do you have seven different notebooks scattered around your writing space or countless notes floating around in your inbox? Maybe you’ve tried to capture the stuff that matters, but now it’s hard to find and doesn’t make sense because it’s out of order and place.
When you choose a specific time to write, also choose a specific location where you’ll capture the information. Return to the same notebook, document, or digital note every single day. Be sure to date the entry for ease of recall, and keep this record of images, conversations, or memories in a safe place.
With this simple practice, you have the opportunity to pay attention and capture the descriptions and details that will make your words come alive on the page. Your future writing self will thank you.
If you found this tip helpful, hope*writers has a member library filled with hundreds of in-depth teachings on every aspect of writing — from rhythms and routines to writing craft and publishing trends. Click here to learn more and take one step toward balancing the art of writing with the business of publishing.