Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! This week we’re staying in tune with our keen sense of observation. Last week we looked at the advantages of seeing what is around us; this week we’re going to listen a little harder to the sounds going on around us.
It’s true, sometimes we can’t (or don’t) really listen because there is too much noise. Noise from external sources, such as phones, people’s voices, traffic, TVs, and so on. Besides all of that, our internal noise can drown out a lot of things too – such as our creativity (when we allow our inner critics to get too loud). We do hear a lot of things going on all around us, but we don’t always listen and there is a difference.
Sound is one of those senses that many of us take for granted. It would be hard to imagine not hearing a loved one’s voice, a favorite song, a purring cat, birdsong, waves of the ocean – you know the things that we really long to hear, especially if it’s been a while since we last heard them, but don’t always think much about. We need to remember that like sight, sound can really lend itself to getting into our writing. Here are a few examples:
When I was in high school, my English teacher brought in Carole King‘s album Tapestry for us to listen to, and as we listened to the songs we were encouraged to write what we felt. All these years later, I’ve never forgotten that exercise because it left an impact, not only because of my love of King’s songs but because of the imagery her words conjured up as I listened. My poem, “Our New English Teacher” reflects on this memory:
by studying the lyrics of Carole King, / we unraveled the canonized poets,
/ and with each unfamiliar assignment / we wrote our way out of ordinary.
Another example is something that inspired a freewrite, and then found it’s way into a new poem that I’m writing. Not far from my house is a lot of road construction; sitting in my home one day, with the windows open, I heard a constant clanking sound…for whatever reason that sound took me back to Eaton Elementary School where the chains from the Maypole rattled and clanked in the wind…or when played on at recess. I had not thought of recess, or that weird piece of playground equipment in years – and probably wouldn’t have if a simple sound hadn’t returned that memory to me.
So with this week’s prompt I’m asking you to take the time to really listen to what’s going on around you. What sound brings a memory from your past back into focus? What sound inspires you to write a poem, or takes you right into a new short story? Could it be a song that comes on the radio – “an oldie but goodie?” Could it be some unexpected noise that unlocks an unrelated memory like happened to me? The possibilities, again, are endless – it just hinges on how hard you want to listen. With that in mind, here’s your ninth prompt:
“Did You Hear That? Write!”
1) Listen. Turn off the technology and sit in silence. What do you hear that you’ve not noticed before? Accidentally, on purpose, eavesdrop on conversations going on all around you. Jot down what you hear. Go out into nature, listen to the different sounds you haven’t paid attention to – what does wind really sound like? Can you tell the difference in the sounds of a Northern Cardinal and a Blue Jay? In your daybook write down all sounds that you hear. Do they remind you of anything? Write that down too.
2) Select a favorite CD or an oldies station and listen to the music as you write in your daybook. What feelings do these songs, or this artist, conjure up? What images do you see when you really pay attention to the lyrics? What memories do you have when a song comes on that you haven’t heard in a while? Write it all down.
3) After you’ve selected what you’d really like to listen to from the above suggestions, and have written your observations – now go back in and add in more detail. Do you see a poem possibility? Have you given yourself an idea for a story? A character? A setting? Write for 10 minutes or until you exhaust your images/energy of the piece.
4) Revise, revise, and then revise again. I know of what I speak. It works.
Again, I feel that this exercise will lend itself well to any of the writing genres; simple everyday active listening 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 what you hear will give you great ideas for a piece of flash fiction, a short story, or even a 10 minute play. Listening to what’s going on around you can help you create a plot, a character’s personality or attire, a charming setting, and so on. 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!