GALILEO IN WALMART. Picturing the master in the Big Box store was something I asked of both classes I taught last week, and when they did, they learned the secret of the grab and go. Want to do the same?
Consider Galileo in Walmart. Imagine the master standing amid the deep fryers, digital cameras and lawn chairs. All he wants is the one small part he needs to perfect the telescope. Then he’ll prove that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around, as was standard message of the church in his time. Seeking a small item to prove a big theory, Galileo must not get distracted by the Christmas icicle lights and stainless steel slow cookers, the ionized hairdryers and six-time-zone watches. He must go into Walmart, get only what he needs, and come back out. Then he’ll convince us to see the universe the way he does.
Yours is the same assignment. You must speed-shop your overstocked whiz-bang subconscious, snagging only those items tagged by the subject you’ve chosen, leaving all those other pretty, shiny, digital, marked-down objects on the shelves. It’s as though you must carry a custom-made magnet, attracting merely the smallest, precisely charged metal shavings. This is not easy. But mastering the skill of a good quick grab is essential to your success.
I feel so strongly about Galileo and his trip to Walmart that I’ve made a video of this idea. You can view here.
Who else comes to mind when thinking about sifting through my crazy, overloaded life of images? Elton John. This way of sorting for the best stuff reminds me of how he once thought of dressing for his concerts, wearing those custom-made pairs of glasses accessorizing every outfit; in your case, it’s a tailored pair of lenses through which to choose only those items you need to tell a precise tale. Each tale, of course, requires a new set of shades.
Life is lived in the small moments, meaning you are going to have a whole lot of stuff to sift through to illustrate your big point, which is precisely why most people write badly about the big events, typing sentences like “It was the saddest I ever remember” or “I’ll never forget the day that…”
Even in life’s big experiences—birth and death being the top two—how we live consists of individual moments in which we can find some truths. Consider a recent funeral and how you’d write it. To hook me, you must display how it moved you, honoring the great journalism tradition: “Show, don’t tell.” Don’t tell me it was sad; show me how sadness looks, and let me do the math.
“Oh,” I should say to myself at the end of your piece, “now that’s sad.”
See a typo, a grammar flub, my (ever-present) overuse of commas? Point it out, and I’ll thow you in the pool for a monthly free book giveaway. Which book? One of mine — your choice — which were all professionally copy edited, thank goodness.