Perfect Moments – How Do You See The World Around You?


It was too hot to sleep last night. I took a walk down to the corner petrol station to buy some cold Coke. Maybe because I was relaxed, I started to notice my surroundings. The empty park bench under a dim yellow streetlight drew its silhouette on the dark grass behind it. It looked like a Tretchikoff painting. Even though litter surrounded it, it was a beautiful image: urban, lonely, familiar.

At the petrol station, I saw a barefoot young black girl in a bright summer dress playing hopscotch all on her own in the low beams of her dad’s dusty BMW. There was no chalk grid on the stained forecourt. She hopped and skipped from memory, from imagination. It made me nostalgic for my own childhood. You don’t always remember all the things that made you happy as a kid but the emotions are still there: a warm, messy glossary of innocence.

In The Moment

These were perfect moments for me and they were right outside my front door. As I walked back home, I felt sad. As a writer, you’re meant to pay attention, to observe, to record. It’s your job. I used to write down perfect moments all the time – in notebooks, on bits of paper. Why did I stop?

Maybe I don’t go walking enough. Maybe I’ve been caught up in rushing to meetings or paying bills. But last night reminded me of why I love writing — of finding those moments, of weaving them into story settings, of glimpsing the idea of a novel or screenplay in the small details.

You can learn the craft of plot, of developing character, of refining genre — and all these are important steps to becoming a great writer — but at the heart of it, it’s really about capturing how you see the world. The beautiful, the seedy; the thrilling smile from a stranger, the polished shoes of a policeman, the way stained glass in a church makes you think of wine gums.

Take Note

Today I went out and bought a moleskin notebook that fits into my back pocket, like a tiny blue passport to my imagination, and I’ve started
jotting down my perfect moments.  While this week’s blog is perhaps a little self-indulgent, I hope it inspires you. What are your perfect moments?

Image: Tretchikoff print

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

 by Anthony Ehlers

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This article has 6 comments

  1. Shahbano

    Writing is simple and beautiful

  2. Elaine Dodge

    Stunning piece of writing, Anthony! A great example of showing not telling how to write. Loved it. Thank you.

  3. Anthony Ehlers

    Thanks, Shahbano & Elaine. I loved writing it.

  4. Liesl

    Wow! Just the reminder I needed today. Thank you!

  5. Carol J. Perry

    What lovely thoughts and good advice to start my day! Thank you, Anthony.

  6. Anthony Ehlers

    Thanks, Carol. As Julia Cameron always says, ‘Pay attention’. 🙂

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