“[N]otice what you noticed. No, go further: tell yourself the audacious thing that because you noticed, it matters.” ~ Linda LaPlante
The conversation occurred during those minutes before class when students wait with varying degrees of patience for the teacher—in this case, me—to begin.
“I think parts of my brain are missing.” This came from a tousle-haired, thoughtful young man in the second row. I said something about that being more true for me all the time, thinking he was talking about poor memory or lack of attention.
“I don’t feel envy. Not ever. I don’t think I ever have. That’s not normal.”
This was not what I expected to hear. The students in front of him were silent, as was I.
“You’re lucky,” another student told him. “It’s not a good feeling.”
Then it was time for class to begin.
Why did those 30 seconds or so stay with me to the point that I know I’ll remember the scene and the words and the faces long after I’ve forgotten the topic of the class that day or even the names of the students involved?
Alice LaPlante offers an answer in The Making of a Story, a book I am stealing away moments to read whenever I can:
“[C]reative work comes from noticing. You are being given a warning, an intimation of something, and that something is the creative urge, sometimes buried quite deep in your subconscious, telling you that something matters, there’s information and intelligence there to be considered, material to uncover there, memories and associations to explore.” (p. 36).
This is why many successful writers keep notebooks, to record those intimations, to write ourselves a reminder of what we’ve noticed. LaPlante tells us that, as writers, we’ve “always noticed”:
“There have always been things that caught your attention, piqued your interest, or otherwise caused you to pay closer attention to something than perhaps someone else would. Indeed, the very individual nature of noticing is your greatest strength as a writer.” (p. 35, emphasis added)
LaPlante’s words gave me much comfort this week. Do you ever find that you can’t explain to others why a conversation or an event or even the look in the eyes of the person crossing the street in front of you is interesting, memorable, even important? That it matters? When you try to share the import of what you notice, do others look at you as though you are speaking in Klingon?
What if your drive to notice is a strength, not something that’s weird, and, what if instead of trying to talk about it, you write it down?
What have you noticed recently?
Did you tell yourself it matters, even if you don’t know why?
Did you write it down?