Author. Inspired by Creativity, Imagination and Design.


My experiences in writing.

My observations of the creative world around me.

How those two worlds come together.

Simple Tip #6 to Instantly Improve Your Writing

A married couple found themselves meeting with a therapist. The wife complained, “He never listens to me.”

The therapist asked, “Can you give me an example?”

“Sure,” she said. “Just yesterday, we were driving home and I saw a convenience store. I wanted a soda, so I said something and he drove right on by.”

The therapist asked the husband, “Why didn’t you stop?”

He responded, “I didn’t know she wanted a soda.”

“Well, I said, ‘I sure am thirsty,’” she pushed back.

The therapist turned to the husband, “What did you think when she said she was thirsty?”

Without missing a beat, the husband said, “I thought, I’d better hurry home so my wife can get something to drink.”

See what happened there?

The wife thought she was clearly expressing what she wanted. But she wasn’t.

Note: This is not an article about disparaging wives or females. This is an article about adding specifics to our writng so that we are clear.

Simple Tip #6 to Instantly Improve Your Writing

Write in specifics, not in generalities.

This is easy to miss.

Sometimes my mind is moving so fast, that I struggle to get the narrative down on paper fast enough. I think I’m being clear.

After all, I know what I mean.

I know what I see in my mind.

But then I miss opportunities to paint a rich picture for my readers.

The problem is that I generalize. But the details bring the narrative to life. The reader enjoys the specifics. The reader remembers the specifics.

An Example from Fiction

Here’s an example from the world of novel writing:

Generic Sentence: Bad weather moved in.

In the example, the reader is uncertain what type of bad weather has moved in — snow, sleet, rain, hurricane…

Specific Sentence: Storms pelted the coast every day for a week.

In the rewrite, the reader understands what type of bad weather the community is dealing with.

An Example from Business Writing

This applies to business writing as well:

Generic Sentence: The team has been very busy.

Most employees are busy. We don’t fully appreciate to what extent this team has been working. But a rewrite demonstrates just how dedicated the team is:

Specific Sentence: The team gave up evenings and weekends, putting in 20 hours of overtime each week for the past two months.

Specifics Make Your Writing Stronger

Specifics paint a vivid picture for your reader. Specifics hold your reader’s attention.

Remember: Not every detail is important. Your job is to incorporate the details that matter.

One of my favorite authors, Garrison Keillor, is a genius at calling up pictures in the reader’s mind with details that play into the story as it develops. Because of his finesse in sharing the details, you feel as if you know the quaint characters of Lake Wobegon.

Below is an excerpt from his book, Leaving Home:

“It rained Wednesday night. Roger Hedlund lay worrying about his unplanted corn and thinking about his daughter Martha’s new black kitten. Roger had laid down the law that a cat stays outdoors, even when it’s cold: That’s what it has fur for, put it outside, it’ll take care of itself. She looked up at him, pleading. He said, ‘Now. Just do it.’ She put the kitten out. On her way upstairs she whispered, ‘Murderer.’ He heard her. When he went up to bed, he heard the kitten crying on the back step. Well, he thought, it’ll go away. It cried pitifully and then it did go away, and after a while he went out to look for it. ‘Kittykittykittykitty.’ He walked naked except for his long T-shirt, barefoot across the cold wet grass, his big dog, Oscar, with him. He pulled the T-shirt down to make himself decent, and thought he heard the kitten under the house. Bent over to look, and Oscar sniffed him. Roger jumped straight into the side of the house, hitting the faucet with his thigh. He groaned and sat down in the grass. ‘Ohhhhh.’ And saw the flashlight. ‘Dad?’ she said. ‘Dad, is that you?’”

I feel like I’m right there, witnessing Roger’s search for the kitten and Oscar’s offense. I’m clear about what’s going on, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Details Engage the Reader

Identify the details that matter.

And then paint a specific picture for your reader.

Sometimes You Need a Little Creativity Boost

My free eBook might just help:

5 Exercises that Will Make You 10 Times More Creative

I use these exercises to keep the juices flowing — in myself and in my clients. (I am a marketing consultant, after all.)

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Bryan Searing