Monday, September 21, 2009

Tip #3 - Intention

What makes all this stuff happen more and faster?

(And what do I mean when I say "all this stuff"?

I mean practicing, noticing, and writing, swimming, leading, loving, or anything else better.)


What the heck is intention?

Well, let's start with some other words in its family:




Intent is a noun. It means the desire and purpose to do something.

For example, everyone reading this has an intent to get better at writing in English. Otherwise, why read this, right?

(Okay, don't answer that.)

And what's another example? I bet many people reading this have had an intent to lose weight or get more exercise. Or stay in touch with relatives. Or remember your mother's birthday. Or do better at work. Or make more money. Or win lotto.

Intend is a verb. With this post, I intend to help you with your writing.

Maybe I will do that and maybe I won't, but that is my intention.

Intention is an abstract noun. Other abstract nouns are love and peace. Abstract nouns are things you can't really put in a box. They are idea kind of words. Concrete nouns are things you can touch. Concrete nouns help your readers understand your story, ideas, or information because we use our senses (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling). Concrete nounds make our writing more vivid.

(What is vivid? Okay, Spanish speakers, what is vivid? Vivir! Vivid means full of life.)

If you want to write about Love and you use the word love a lot, it doesn't really get your reader excited. But now talk about how a baby smells and how you keep burying your nose in their hair to smell that good, warm, smell that there is no English word for. And then talk about how it feels to be wrapped in the arms of your boy or girlfriend, after your cat has just been hit by a car. And then talk about how it feels to see your mom when you haven't seen her for five years and she looks so little now, and her hair is greyer and there are more wrinkles around her eyes. Your reader starts to understand.

Okay, where was I?


The difference between just doing something and doing something with intention is like the difference between an old pencil with no eraser and a very worn-down point and a brand new, just sharpened pencil with a lovely pink eraser at its end.

Intention makes everything happen faster.

Okay, so what does this mean to your writing?

Well, hopefully, you're writing more.

If you're not, pretend you are! ;-)))

Seriously, try writing more and see if you start noticing more things.

Okay. Are you doing that now? Great.

Now that you're writing more and noticing more, start doing that with intention.

What does that mean?

It could mean a lot of things because you decide what that intention is pointed at.

It might be: longer sentences.

You start noticing long sentences when you're reading and you start noticing how the writer makes them long. What words does the writer use? Does the writer use connector words? Commas? Semi-colons?

Get out a yellow highlighter and highlight all the long sentences. Look at them. Study at them.

Does that sound hard?

Maybe. A little.

Does spending the rest of your life feeling frustrated because you can't really express yourself well in English sound hard?

Well, it sounds darn hard to me.

How about never getting a better job?

Which means maybe working a job you don't really like - and not making very much money at it, either.

Does that sound hard?

Yeah, I thought so.

I've done just that so I know it is.

Or you could put your intention on adjectives. Highlight all the adjectives.

Do writers just use words like "big" and "little"?


They use words like "butter-yellow" and "wiggly" and "stupefying" and "exorbitant" and because they do, their writing is more interesting, more accurate, and more vivid.

That might sound a little opposite to the advice I'm always giving about how you don't have to use big words to be a good writer. That's true. You don't have to use big words.

But! It doesn't hurt to have a few extra words in your pocket, either.

So try it.

Try practicing.

And then try noticing.

And then try noticing with intention.

And then let me know what you think.

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