Delighting in the Detail, Clare Morris

By the time you read this The Blue Nib’s daily column will be four months old. Our pilot, The Daily, proved successful enough that we decided to expand our digital horizons and rebrand it as The Write Life.

It’s stating the obvious, I know, but you’re never really sure what is waiting for your around the corner.  Looking back, it seems as if The Write Life was born in an age of innocence before Covid-19 elbowed its way centre stage. We responded initially with themed weekend editions like Mother’s Day, Easter and Travel.  These encouraged us to reflect on past experiences and endeavoured to shape our steps to match the pace of the recently-imposed lockdown.  It seemed so straightforward; we would bide our time until things returned to ‘normal’ – only they didn’t. Reports and video footage of the unlawful killing of George Floyd shocked us all, shaking us to the core. 

So many unexpected, at times frightening, events gripped the world that I doubted people would have the time to send submissions.  I was wrong – so wrong.  A trickle became a stream became a river. There was understandably a huge outpouring of anger and despair in response to George Floyd’s death but many articles also offered signs of hope amongst the chaos. As protests spread worldwide, our dynamic digital space provided an appropriate outlet to respond to events that twisted and turned at a dizzying pace. Readers were not just browsing but returning to our pages frequently.  Writers were submitting articles that eloquently gave voice to our rage and charted a clear course towards a new resolve.  We were suddenly gripped by a fresh pandemic – a pandemic of people saying ‘Enough. This injustice must end. Now.’ In our next magazine edition, I hope that we’ll have opportunities to reflect more fully on those events and how we, as writers, can continue with our work of speaking out against injustice. Of keeping our foot on the gas. Of not falling asleep at the wheel.

It has been difficult to select four pieces to reflect our work on The Write Life. We’ve published a cornucopia of articles addressing so many needs and desires. I’m moved by how many emerging writers have chosen to submit work to us, quickly finding their voice and, I would argue, their vocation. I am equally pleased by how many established, successful writers have elected to share their ideas on our pages. Many have demonstrated their belief in our enterprise by contributing regularly to the column; something that fills me with pride and gratitude. 

The Write Life offers a site for writers to share their ideas. In that act of sharing, something remarkable happens: a writerly alchemy. Articles spark off each other to create new meanings, original angles, fresh directions.  It all starts with looking at the detail and realising its potential.

The four pieces I have selected sum up what we endeavour to achieve each day.  Each piece in some way shows that however much we take broad brushstrokes to our writing canvas, eventually it is the detail we chose to focus on, offering scope for further exploration.  Such gifts can be fleeting, however, as Diana Powell attests in Jesus in the Tree but our words can give permanence to these moments of insight, as she persuasively explains. For Jennifer Watts, in The Other Side of Exhale, the detailed exploration of ‘the house of many rooms’ is a source of deep comfort in the face of Covid-19.  For Mike Smith, in So Near, So Far, it’s the wonderful voyage of discovery you take by not skimming over seemingly inconsequential details that is significant.  If we choose to investigate and unearth who knows what we will find?  For Brendan Landers, in Dancing with Carol, the detailed recollection of a slow dance many decades ago creates a heady mix of desire and abandon.  All of these pieces have in some way been rendered more powerful by their attention to detail.

In editing The Write Life, I have been reminded of an important truth: that both as readers and as writers we are greater than the sum of our parts. By meeting together virtually on The Write Life, we develop and explore new horizons by moving beyond old certainties. If writing and reading are solitary tasks, then The Write Life adds the extra layer of community where we have the space to discuss and explore our ideas freely.

There is a saying that ‘the devil is in the detail.’ I’ve always been a little puzzled by the implication, as if attention to detail is something to be avoided, a hot bed of trickery and deception. Rather than trickery, I would prefer to term it craft – the writer’s craft that is our daily focus on The Write Life’s pages.  Does reference to the ‘devil’ imply that attention to detail offers temptation and pleasure? I hope so.  In fact, I would like to rephrase that saying to suit our work at The Write Life – the delight is in the detail.  

Thank you for continuing to support The Write Life by reading our articles, sharing your words, honing your craft – and of course by creating delight in all the details you offer.  

See you soon!

About the contributor

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