Monday, April 9, 2007


From the archives on Jerry Weinberg’s writing blog, a terrific exercise: “Pay attention and see if you can notice five things that were not meant to be noticed.”

I love this! And even stronger than "not meant to be noticed" is "meant to be not noticed." Details like these show character like a cut-away medical illustration shows anatomy.

I should be good at it -- after all, I read Harriet the Spy in fifth grade, then spent the next three or four years recording observations in my own series of spy notebooks. Instead, it turned out to be a difficult exercise. I discovered that I have strong rules against noticing these things -- outing people about what they’re trying to keep private. Heck, it took me a month to collect these five:

The wind blew open a woman’s spring jacket and she quickly pulled it closed again over her midriff bulges.

A friend saw her job -- her current job -- posted on Craigslist.

During the Consecration (the most sacred part of a Catholic Mass), a door opened at the side of the church. No one appeared and the door closed. A few seconds later, it opened again, then closed halfway. The moment the Consecration was finished, the door opened again and the associate pastor came in to assist with the distribution of Communion.

A woman sneezed with the teeniest choo! choo! Then, not having cleared the irritant, her nose proceeded to run, making her sniff! sniff! sniff! for the next 10 minutes.

Everyone renewing their driver’s license at the DMV wore dark, drab overcoats. But one woman removed her coat for her photo -- and underneath, she wore a pretty outfit.
How about you? I’m going to keep noticing, and I’ll report back when I’ve got the next 10.


  1. I love the last one, and this exercise! To build on it, and on this woman's pride in herself, and because it's dark and snowing in mid-April, maybe it's a good day to "Pay attention to five small signs of optimism."

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  3. How 'bout a bald eagle's nest for some optimism:

    (sorry about the previous post ... had the wrong link)