Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Last week I said for at least the next few weeks we will pay close attention to our keen sense of observation. Why? So many go through life without ever noticing their surroundings, or if they do, they do not give what they notice a second thought. Is it any wonder with everyone’s face glued to some form of technology – be it the TV, Smartphone, Facebook, Twitter, you name it, there’s a lot of devices clamoring for our attention. And, I’ve fallen “victim” of using it all myself – the difference is: a) I grew up without the majority of it, b) I’m involved in the arts enough – both visual and literary – that I’ve taught myself to take notice of my surroundings.
Just this past Sunday, I went for a leisurely walk through one of the Metroparks that we’re so lucky to have here in Toledo, OH. I go for these walks armed with my camera and my daybook, and I never put in earbuds to listen to music as I want to hear the sounds of nature – it’s inspiring! Walking is not only good for one’s health, it’s good for the soul – if you’re open, you can see, listen, smell, or use any of your senses that you need to write and paint creatively. Speaking of senses, it’s no secret that all five (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) are key to your creative output.
So, when I say that not many people are tuned in when they’re out in nature, I can give you a good example – as I was strolling up a path at the park, keeping my eyes and ears open, I heard a snap and a crackle sound come from the woods to my left. Curious, I stopped and looked thinking maybe it was just a squirrel or a chipmunk; I walked a little further up the path, still watching the woods, and looking right at me was a doe. Behind her was a fawn in all its splendid spotted glory. I was able to get several good photos of the doe, and of her baby:
Instead of hurrying along, I decided to hang back, and observe – what I saw was family after family, teen after teen, jog or walk right past this sight without even knowing how close this deer family was (upon further examination there were about four more fawns lying in the brush near this path) – these other people were talking on cell phones, had earbuds inserted, or were merely looking straight ahead, unaware.
Here are a few other sights from my walk Sunday:
All I’m saying is if you want to write, and write well (and it works with art too), you need to open your eyes – see what is in your surroundings. It might not be a bird or a doe that catches your eye – maybe it’s your true love’s eyes, maybe it’s that sculpture in front of the library, maybe it’s that shade of blue sky that you just can’t name, or can you? What is it you really see? With that in mind, here is your eighth prompt:
“Seeing: the Possibilities!”
1) Look around you. Don’t just go through the motions; don’t keep your eyes on your computer screens/handheld devices – really see what’s happening. If it’s only for 10 minutes, that’s a start! Take the time for a walk, or sit at the mall or in a coffeeshop and watch the people, look around your desk, what’s there that you could write about (or sketch)? You get the idea.
2) Keep a camera and your daybook handy – they will come in handy for recording your sights and every little detail that you can jot down.
3) Next, choose something that you saw while consciously being observant and freewrite for 10 minutes, or until you’ve exhausted the subject. Now choose something else and repeat. When done see if the two freewrites (or more, if you have time and are inspired) have any connections you could combine or if maybe they have tension with one another. Surprises are always fun to discover…seeing those connections or seeing the tension build that you hadn’t planned.
4) When you’ve made the discoveries in your writing that you’re happy with, then set aside time to make your work cohesive in some way. As always, make time for revision of your work – it doesn’t matter if it’s a poem, an essay, a flash fiction, or a play – as I’ve written before and I will continue to say – revision is the true art of writing. It’s pulling those images out that are so strong, so realistic, that your audience can see them jump off of the page; it’s making good word choices and then pushing even further to make the best word choices possible, it’s avoiding the cliché and redundant, of course! Revision is key!
Again, I feel that this exercise will lend itself well to any of the writing genres; simple everyday observations will lead to a good poem, or an interesting essay as long as you interject the details, share good imagery, and take time to revise. By the same token, writing about your observations will give you great ideas for a piece of flash fiction, a short story, or even a 10 minute play. Your observations could make it into the plot, a character’s personality or attire, a charming setting, the possibilities are endless! Once you get writing you’ll see the possibilities.
As with all writing, it should be fun! If you ever want to share any successes or attempts that you get from these prompts, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can contact me here.
Look for another prompt next Wednesday! Until then, keep writing!