Microscopic truthfulness


My favorite book is If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. I’ve written about this charming, effusively encouraging and insightful book before and was reminded recently of her championing what she called “microscopic truthfulness”.

Good writing or art or communication of any sort should be characterized by a detailed and exacting commitment to accuracy. Details matter. Our brains can absorb so much and have evolved to find patterns and grasp nuance. The effective artist will take advantage of the audience’s ability and eagerness to fully inhabit and imagine sensory and emotional details. We miss opportunities to deeply connect and make our message resonate if we don’t embrace the fine points, if we stick to mere generalizations.

Hemingway gave similar advice about observing intently and communicating in detail:

Find what gave you the emotion; what the action was that gave you the excitement. Then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too and have the same feeling that you had.

Details matter and give meaning and energy and interest to what would otherwise be forgettable and lost in the wash of information that rolls over us every day.