Why Write An Essay that Focuses on Observing?


When I was in school several years ago, our first formal essay was Observation. Our job was to choose something or someone in our lives, and describe it in such rich detail that our professor could see it in her mind’s eye.  Being a “troublesome” student, I quickly challenged her when I heard the assignment explained.  “Why?  What good will that do us in the real world?” I asked. She simply responded with a smile.


I’ve thought a lot about that question since then. And, here is my short-version answer.  Observation exercises such as the essay I am asking you to write serve many purposes. They include, but are not limited to:



They help us take off our blinders:


Have you ever been driving to work or to school and all of a sudden blown a stop sign you swear was never there before? Or, have you ever been walking down a street you regularly walk and suddenly recognized that a new Quicki Mart has been put up on the corner?  If you’re like me, this has happened to you. Learning observation techniques will help you become more aware of the world around you. And, they’ll help keep you out of potentially embarrassing and costly situations.




They help us appreciate that not everyone sees things the way we do:


When was the last time you were working on a project and had to ask someone to hand you something only to discover that your friend didn’t know a wrench from an emery board? It happens all the time. You tell your pal to hand you the “converter,” and he/she stares blankly back at you. So, you tell him/her that what you need is long and metal and flat with a short black handle, and it’s over in the corner.   “Oh,” he/she says, “I know just what you need now. Be right back.”  And, when he/she returns he/she offers you exactly what you would need if you were cooking pancakes—a spatula.   Sometimes our descriptions lack the detail we need to effectively communicate. Learning to Observe and describe appropriately will help eliminate incidents such as these.



The skills learned come in handy in workplace situations:


If you are ever asked to explain exactly what the rowdy customer who broke your window looked like and did, or if you’re needed to detail what sound the Xerox copier was making before it exploded, observation practice will help. Not only will you be able to tell how tall the grandmotherly customer was or that she was hopping up and down on a pogo stick; you’ll also be able to say with ease that there was a high pitched “wiiiiiieeeerrrrrr---gellumpgellump Splutter!” coming from the machine. You’ll be seen as the person to come to for great information, and you might even be offered a raise.  Great job!


The tasks associated with them help us in social situations.


If you meet someone you are attracted to, learning to observe and describe through metaphors and similes correctly will help you say with a straight face “your hair smells like the most beautiful sunrise” or “your smile is a full moon in fall.” She/he’ll dig it; and you may get the chance to use other sensory perceptions later on.



As you can see, observation exercises serve to prepare you for many practical purposes. Read on, and prepare to open your eyes and minds to a whole new world.


Click Here to Go to the Next

Notes regarding Observation