Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Inspirational Mentors

One of the people who influenced my creativity, both with writing and with photography, was my 7th grade English teacher, Mr. Pithan. He started me on a practice which I've continued from time to time throughout the years, especially when I feel "stuck" and need some prompting to get the creative juices flowing.

Mr. Pithan kept several large files stuffed full of creative images he had pulled from magazines and advertising. The images could be anything: people, just faces, landscapes, a close-up of an item, architecture, street scenes, anything. What was common to all the photos and artworks was the fact that there were no words or lettering present with any of the images. The first time he pulled out the file folders, I had no idea what to expect. But once I knew what they meant, I looked forward to the days we would see the files laying out on his desk when we came in to class.

He divided us up in to groups of three or four and had us face our desks together. Each cluster of students was then presented with a stack of folders, the same number as students in the group.

He then explained that we were going to do a writing exercise. (At this point, some grumbling from several students always happened.) Each folder contained a single image from his file along with several blank sheets of writing paper. When he flicked the lights off and on, we were to each take one of the folders. We then had 10 minutes to look at the image in our folder and write a one page (or longer) story.
He challenged us to ask as many questions about the image as we could think of in the process of developing our stories. Who? What? Where? When? Why? What if? Why not?

When the time was up, we were to put our image and story in the folder and pass the folder to the person beside us. Another 10 minutes were put on the clock in which to accomplish the same task, but with a new image.

We kept this up until everyone had had the chance to write something for each of the images which had been given to our group. The folders were collected and kept until the following class period. Then we were asked to take a folder and read the stories while keeping the image before us.

I found it a fascinating exercise. I was always amused, and sometimes challenged, by the fact that each of the people in the group had seen and written such different things despite the fact we had all looked at the same image.

So let me challenge you. Here's a photo I took a couple years ago. Without looking at what others before you have written in the comments, write a five to seven sentence "story" with this image as your illustration and leave it as your comment.

I can't wait to see what you come up with!

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