Monday, October 7, 2013

Developing Your Writing

Post by Jenny

My older son, a freshman in high school, is currently enrolled in a photography class. He first took photo in middle school, where the students used iPads and lots of fun apps to get creative. But the high school class is real black-and-white film photography, the way it was when I was in school (some years after the Flintstones perfected the ‘bird-pecking-on-stone-tablet’ method).

I confess that for the past decade, I have very much appreciated the simplicity of digital photography, although I fully acknowledge that it has allowed me to wallow in excess. I don’t take one photo of one subject, I take six. I might send four of those to the tiny little trash can, or I might keep them all and add them to the veritable landslide of images stored on my computer.

So it has been very interesting for me to watch my son shooting photos the old school way. For each project, he is allowed one 36-exposure roll of film. He gives careful consideration to each subject, which requires picturing how it will look devoid of color. (I suppose he could cheat and take a preview snapshot with the black-and-white setting on my digital camera, but to his credit, he is staying true to the assignments.)

Learning to see the world in a different way, and the name of art, makes me think of writing. After all, if our characters see only through our eyes, why, they’ll all be just like us. And I don’t know about you, but a novel full of characters ‘just like me’ would be—move over, Ambien!—the definitive cure for insomnia. So, thank goodness for imagination. But imagination isn’t enough. We also need a framework to help everything take shape. As my son is learning the equipment and methods and lingo of the trade—lenses, f-stops, shutter speeds—I am reminded that writers should also have a solid working knowledge of the rules and tools.

Like pictures, our stories need time to develop and are only as good as what appears on the paper. A great black and white photograph includes just enough and not too much. The same can be said for a great essay, story, novel, memoir, poem. And in most cases that’s not a happy accident. It’s the result of the right balance of imagination and know-how.

What tool or technique helps you develop your writing?


Patricia Stoltey said...

Writing and more writing is the best technique for me. And writing fast without stopping to edit, as I will during NaNoWriMo, is excellent practice.

Lynn said...

Love the analogy of B & W photography - I've always been intrigued by those images. Something about removing color makes the images more poignant.

I am just new enough to creative writing that everything I encounter helps me develop my writing. At the moment I am enamored of making scene and character collages, cutting out of magazines. I find if I have an image to work from, the story comes more easily.

Great post - thanks! And kudos to your son for exploring his creativity.

Anonymous said...

This took me back to the time my younger brother was into photography in the late 70's and early 80's. When he was in junior high, he got his first camera, and our father helped him convert a bathroom in our house into a dark room. My brother worked diligently for years, taking and developing his own photos. At one time, he took pictures for the local paper. Now, he's a physicist with a P.H.D., and he works just as diligently at that as he did at photography.

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