When I’m trying to come up with a story, I often start with a specific image. It could be anything: an apple pie cooling on a stove top, a red bird flitting onto a snow-covered tree branch, water from the garden hose on bare feet, the echoing voice of a woman on a cell phone in a stairwell. Anything, just so long as it’s one simple thing that fills the senses.
I recently realized that this insight was a good subject for a blog post, and I pondered what more to write about it as I was driving to work. I could explain that concrete images help keep a writer grounded in physical reality instead of puffing up stories with abstractions that readers don’t care about. Or I could talk about how sensory images activate latent memories that pull readers deeper into a story. Or I could show how sensory images resonate with our right brains and help us writers tap into our wellsprings of creativity.
These were all great ideas, and by the time I was half way to work I had thought out a share-worthy post.
But then I had to stop outlining and focus on driving past a slower-moving truck. It was long steel flatbed painted robin’s egg blue, and as went by I was able to see that it carried three gigantic cubes of gray cement, ten feet on a side. They must have weighed two tons each.
I clicked my mental camera shutter: an image of concrete.
I looked into the cab and the driver waved to me. I half-waved back, happy for the clear morning and the cheerful truck driver, but also sad that I had say goodbye to another brilliant but too-complicated blog post. Simple is best. Simple is always best.