[Tipster] Write to Find Out

Oct 26, 2022

Shopping at Goodwill is a near-daily ritual for me.
 
I’m convinced thrifting is as much a part of my DNA as my dark brown hair.
 
Because my “jobby” selling vintage demands finding oldish, affordable stuff to resell, I frequent the place where oldish, affordable stuff ends up—Goodwill.
 
There’s a Goodwill less than half-a-mile from my house; its siren song is loud and irresistible.
 
My frequency makes me a regular. The best part might be the people watching.
 
So many people. So many stories.
 
A Story Behind the Person
 
One day at Goodwill I stood on one side of a 4-sided wire shelf. To the left of me was a woman about a decade older jamming to Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.” 
 
I confess, I stood there long after I was done scanning the shelf. There was something about the woman still in her pjs, studying porcelain pig figurines, and singing—aloud—like she was a 17-year-old at a summer concert.
 
I wanted to bottle up that moment. I wanted to write about it—because I wasn’t sure what about that moment made me feel so good.
 
Maybe it was because I could imagine her in her unencumbered youth. And by association, I could see myself in my youth (but instead singing to Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Hold My Hand”).
 
She was carefree and open to possibilities. She wasn’t worried about bills, laundry or doctors’ appointments. In that moment, the demands of the day were crowded out by a dopamine-inducing pop-charts favorite.
 
Living in the moment: that’s what it was.
 
Discovery through Writing
 
In an essay called, “Why I Write,” Joan Didion writes, “I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
 
Before writers write, they observe.
 
They pay attention to the things they see—and the feelings attached to those things.
 
Writers are gifted (generally speaking) with curiosity. With it, they are given the sacred gift of helping others see what they might have missed in the ordinary. 
 
More important, and I think what Didion is getting at, writers connect commonplace experiences to the deeper human experience.
 
It’s why many writers journal. And why, if you’re not journaling, maybe you should start today. 
 
A journal is simply a place for you to think about what you have observed. Dig for the deeper truths. And find a way to articulate it in a winsome way.
 
Some of that might end up in the writing you’re working on for publication. Lots of it won’t.
 
But the practice of finding meaning in the ordinary is as important as learning how to use the semi-colon.
 
This week, I hope you find some time to observe and find meaning.