The Key to a Good Digression

Is remembering where you started. Really, that’s the main thing– remember what you digressed from so you can strategically jump back to it. Also, make sure your listener is on board for the digression. And know if and when to jump ship.

In the middle of a conversation with a friend, she politely interrupted to compliment me on my snake earrings, which were made by a middle-schooler in a wood shop class in California. I thanked her, but, then felt compelled to describe that my mom is the Arts’n’Crafts guru at a summer camp that is held on a middle school campus and she made friends with the teacher whose room she borrows for the summer, who also happens to be the wood shop teacher, hence my possession of wooden snake earrings made by a random middle-schooler. Phew… let me catch my breath.

A good conversation piece, apparently.

I started to explain this to her, “Well, my mom…” but realizing these details may be mostly uninteresting, I stopped myself. “Wait. Do you want to hear the story of the snake earrings?” In it for the long haul, she welcomed my digression. The story was well-received and then we seamlessly returned to what we were originally talking about.

Later that same day, I was talking about something enthralling like the paper I had to write for one of my summer classes (which I have not been writing) when another friend reached over and touched one of my snakey earrings. Understanding that simple act as a question, I began my explanation. This time I didn’t ask for permission, nor did I return to the first topic. I knew what I was talking about before was boring and this was my way out!

The point is, in order to digress well, make sure your audience wants to and remember where you came from so that you can safely return. And feel free to transform the digression into the new conversation when appropriate. You’ll know when it’s right.

Digress responsibly, but always digress.


“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

-T.S. Eliot

Categories: Day to Day, Mere Musings, Short and Sweet, The Art of Writing, What's a Metaphor? | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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