For the third meeting of Wednesday Writers on May 8, I have given my budding writers the task of writing a list of observations to share with the group. In discussing ways to find inspiration and ideas for stories, we talked about the skill of observing the things and experiences we encounter during our daily life. The art of observation not only makes us more appreciative and aware of our surroundings, but provides ample fodder for our artistic endeavors and makes us more perceptive readers. Observations give us starting points for creating stories and can give us insight into making our characters and setting more realistic (or not, if that is your story’s goal). They can include physical descriptions of people or the environment, experiences with behavior, the words and phrases people use, or the emotions we experience in various situations. All five senses should be considered when making an observation – what did it look like? Sound like? Smell or taste like? Feel like, both tactically and emotionally? Additionally, I suggested that participants write down these observations in a journal so that they can remember them and look back at the list for ideas when they are writing.
Here are a few examples of observations I’ve made this week:
- A waxy black crow eating from a fast food bag in a parking lot, intermittently stopping to let out a harsh “cah!”. I was unsure whether it was responding to how disgusting the smashed food was, or how delicious.
- An older couple riding a tandem bike. They were wearing matching fluorescent jackets, one yellow and one orange, that exactly matched the colors of the safety reflector on the back of their bike.
- A stone fountain with a pool that is slightly too small, so that the incessant wind always blows the water out, creating a persistent puddle around it and making it impossible to peacefully seat yourself anywhere close to it.
- When you furiously write down an idea that comes to your mind, causing your writing to be messy and incoherent because you are trying to quickly capture the thought before it slips away.
Whether you are an active writer or an imaginative reader, honing the skill of making observations is a worthy habit to develop. I encourage you to try it for yourself, whether you are observing the nature around you on a walk, people-watching around the community, or just noticing new aspects of everyday events.