Shakespeare writes in The Merchant of Venice that “all that glisters is not gold; often have you heard that told.” It’s an idea writer Lori Jakiela seems to have taken to heart. Not everything is golden, but it’s still valuable and can be mined for inspiration. That’s what Jakiela’s Brown Bag lecture will focus on today.
Jakiela is the prose writer-in-residence for Week Eight at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. With her Brown Bag, “All that Glimmers: On Finding Those Luminous Details,” she’ll discuss the importance of details and how to find them in everyday life. Her lecture will be at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Jakiela is the author of multiple memoirs, the most recent of which is The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious. She’s also published a poetry collection, Spot the Terrorist! Jakiela may be a familiar face to the regulars of the Chautauqua writing scene as well — she co-directed this year’s preseason Writers’ Festival.
Writers speak on the things they’re obsessed with, and Jakiela’s obsession is “tiny details,” she said. Paying attention to all of the little, odd things in her life has helped her add more layers and depth in her own work, and she said that’s something she wants to share.
One of the most important parts of capturing these tiny details is simply to pay attention, Jakiela said. The poet Antonio Machado would often give this advice to those looking to improve their writing — something that really affected her.
“His advice to young writers was to pay attention,” Jakiela said. “That’s all he would say when people would write to him.”
Jakiela will focus her lecture on doing what Machado said — paying attention — and strategies for noticing the “little things” people may pass over or think insignificant. The things we ignore sometimes end up being the most important, Jakiela said.
“It’s about realizing that, sometimes, these tiny moments have deeper meanings and that they’re imbued with metaphor naturally,” she said. “So you don’t have to force the metaphor — it might be there in front of you all the time if you just pay attention.”
Jakiela is interested in talking about ways of seeing the world in a fresh way and using it in writing. She said she felt this herself on a recent trip to Belgium, which brought to mind Belgian painter René Magritte’s “The Treachery of Images,” a painting of a tobacco pipe with the words “this is not a pipe” written below it.
Seeing the world and writing about it is similar to the message of Magritte’s painting, Jakiela said.
“What we see is more complex than what we think it is,” Jakiela said. “There’s always more meaning there to find and discover, and it’s really exciting to do that.”
Jakiela hopes her audience will be inspired to start looking at the world with fresh eyes and finding the things that glimmer and glister. She also wants them to recognize that there really is no such thing as writer’s block.
“The world is giving you material all the time, you just have to see it and write it down,” Jakiela said.