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When You Want to Capture Magic

Often when we want to capture a magical moment, we snap a photo with our smartphone. Maybe we post it on social media. Maybe we don’t. Either way, eventually we forget about it. Which is one reason to turn to writing. Because when we try to capture a moment with words, we mull it over. We strive to find the right words to describe what we’re observing. We are deliberate and intentional. Which means we give it our full attention. Which means we immerse ourselves in the moment. Which makes the process into a kind of meditation.

Here’s another reason: “Sometimes the scope of what you want to capture is too big, too small, or too fleeting for any camera lens,” writes Jenna McGuiggan in Bella Grace magazine. In 2012, after seeing an elderly man in a suit riding a shiny red and silver bicycle, McGuiggan was inspired to write a “verbal snapshot” on Twitter. That snapshot inspired a series of snapshots throughout the years.

As she beautifully writes in this post, “Verbal Snapshots are those tiny moments of time when the day takes your hand and whispers, ‘Pay attention to this. To this world. To this life. To this moment.'”

Here are some of the snapshots she’s written:

A grey cat stares out the window at falling snow, his fur ruffling in the breeze from the heat vent beneath his feet. 

Candlelight glow through white paper wrapper. Empty mason jar. Broken grey seashell. Small black stone with white stripe.

Two trains on parallel tracks pass each other in opposite directions. For a split second, the engines look ready to kiss.

Two fuzzy brown ducklings on a green slope littered with stale bread.

A perfect circle of honey-colored tea fills a white porcelain teacup sitting upon a caramel-brown tabletop.

The In-between Season: A robin hops among chunks of snow twice his height.

To capture your own verbal snapshot, in the magazine piece, McGuiggan suggests starting with these prompts: “Children playing in the park…” “The world outside your kitchen window…” “The movement of the leaves…”

Here are additional prompts to watch for and to explore: The smell of this morning… The sounds at night… The brightest color you’ve seen… Something that’s surprised you… Dewdrops… The trees across the street… Love… The light… The moon… Spring… The symphony of the wind…  A strange combination… A silly sight… A teeny tiny wonder… A change… Friends supporting each other… Smiles between strangers… Reflections…

Take along a small notebook with you wherever you go, so you can be ready when the day takes your hand and whispers, Look. Listen. Taste. Feel this moment. Yes, it’s small, and yes it’s also important enough to pause whatever it is you’re doing so you can describe it precisely and savor it like a sweet dessert. 

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash.
When You Want to Capture Magic

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). When You Want to Capture Magic. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 22 Apr 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Apr 2018
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