Thursday, March 17, 2011
Did You Notice the Lady on the Bench
I came across a great website filled with stories from writers on writing. One in particular (too many to read all at once) captured my attention so I thought I'd share. The author mentioned keeping a journal to capture those moments in time that make an impact. Now I'll admit I don't walk around with a large, leather bound notebook, jotting down copious notes as I capture my world around me. But I do use my phone (the notebook application) and as thoughts come to me, perhaps an appropriate metaphor or a description of a man I saw on a bus stop, I type them in and come back to them later. There is no better time than that moment in time to capture exactly what you're seeing, hearing, feeling or smelling. A great example of this was an exercise I once had in a creative writing class. We were told to think of a location near our home. A park, your front porch, your bedroom or maybe a tourist location. We were then challenged to write a descriptive piece and capture that location on paper using our memory. I chose a park I've been taking my dog to for years and included in my writing; kids playing, the trees that lined the walkway, the smell of eucalyptus trees and the other people walking their dogs. I felt I did a wonderful job of taking the reader to my park.
Now that we had completed our assignments in class, we were told to go to that same location the following week and sit for half an hour and do the same thing. And to my surprise, I had failed miserably at really capturing the feel of the park in my original piece. And so I wrote again, this time including the ping from the aluminum baseball bat a young boy made as his father pitched baseballs to him, the free standing restrooms in need of a new coat of paint, the sign posted on the recreation building offering yoga classes for people over fifty and a mother sitting by herself as her kids ran wild on the playground. She sat alone and deep in thought and I wondered what was going on in her head, making up stories in my mind of a fight with her husband, money problems or a sick family member.
The point was obvious. There is so much going on around us and too often we don't take the time to really look at what is happening. To take in the sights and sounds and capture that on paper to give the reader the feeling of actually being right there in that park with you. So since then, I always take notes and if I'm not able to I'll take a mental picture of exactly what is going on and when I can, put it in writing.
Give it a try one day! It really is a great exercise and I've found it helps get the writing juices flowing. Sometimes it's good just to write. Take a break from your manuscript but keep writing. I think you'll be surprised at how much you'll benefit from it and it may even improve your story!