Writing is a way to share our perceptions of the world around us. It pushes us to relate to people and our environment in new ways, discover connections between things, imagine ourselves in someone (or something) else’s shoes. A writer’s world is woven from a fabric of stories.
Whether or not you think of yourself as a writer, you can think like a writer. Here are a couple of “writer’s goggles” activities to help you turn on your writer’s perspective.
-Choose an inanimate object in your home. Try to really get a feel of what it would be like to be that object if it were sentient. Get your eyes right beside it and see what its world looks like, whether it’s perspective is from your bedroom floor or inside your Tupperware drawer. Even go so far as pretending to be that object – if you are a washing machine, get your hands in some soapy water or spin around for a while; if you are a bath mat, lay on the floor and ask someone to (carefully!) step on your back. Then write a “Day in the life” story from your object’s point of view, including not only what it does during the day, but what it perceives and how it feels.
-Tap into your senses. Whether you are sitting at your all too familiar desk or take the opportunity to go somewhere new – a park, a busy coffee shop, an art museum – take a few minutes to observe, listen, smell, feel, even taste the air around you. Try not to think during this time, just notice. Then take a few minutes to write down what you noticed. Finally, take some time to reflect on your experience. How do you feel? Why do you think your surroundings sound or smell that way? Can you make any assumptions from what you saw? Did it illicit any memories or inspire stories? Can you turn your observations and reflections into a poem?
-Give yourself a metaphor. Write a list of characteristics you have. What kind of food shares one of those qualities? What sort of building? Animal? Plant? Geographic feature? Did any of those connections surprise you?
Back to work after a weekend of backpacking the Blue Ridges, I discovered that writers must be mountains. Our heads in the clouds, seeing the world from a different angle – this is the glorified pinnacle of being a writer. This is where I wanted to stay, with my troubles down in the valley and my imagination rampant as rhododendron. But the peak is just a tiny portion of the mountain. To be a writer, one has to have a strong base. We must be down to earth in researching our stories, our agents, and our editors; grounded in revision. We have to stand firm against rejection letters eroding away our lofty thinking. It makes being a soft, sandy beach or a gently cascading river sound appealing. But every time I am back at my summit, I remember how lucky I am to be a mountain.