Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What do you really see?

One of the most difficult writing assignments I have ever had was to describe famous artwork for blind children. I remember saying to the editor, "This assignment's not for me. I'm not the kind of person who truly appreciates fine art."

The editor's reply was, "You're just what we need. I want you to describe what you see, not in terms of art, but in terms of what is relative to someone who is blind."

I took the assignment. Normally I finish way ahead of deadlines, but not this time. I had to really think about things through my senses. Blind people feel. They hear. They smell. They just don't see...obviously.

I was able to describe most of the art by relying on my sense of touch. For example, it was easy to describe an abstract sculpture by saying that part of it was shaped like a large spoon. Since eveyone has held a spoon and knows how it feels, I was able to paint a sensory picture. In the end, I became a better writer with a heightened awerenss of how things really "looked."

If you're a writer and you want an exercise that will help you paint pictures with your words, describe your stove for us. Trust me, it won't be easy, but it will help you with future descriptive writing. If you'd like to describe something else, that's fine, but please share!

You poets who have been writing with me should have a great time with this exercise. I would love to know how you would describe a hair brush.

Teachers, have your students describe something in your classroom. They can do it orally or on paper. You can actually turn this into a quick game.

Parents, you can do the same thing with your children by using objects in your house.

There's no better way to cultivate creativity than by thinking outside the box. This exercise is truly way out. Have fun!


Susan Marlow . . . said...

Well, this was cool. You amaze me with your little posts. :-)

Suzanne said...

A very different way of thinking about description. Great stuff, Jan.


Glue Girl said...

Jan, great stuff! I am squirreling away your ideas, you know. Teachers are really good at creative appropriation (stealing). Right now we are finishing up our BFG book at school, and I had the kids write about where giant country really is and describe it, then draw a map of it. Not nearly as imaginative and creative as the things you are doing, but with a block of 80 minutes for all the language arts, including reading, I don't have the luxury of time for all the neat things I woud like to be able to do. Sigh. Thanks for the encouraging comments on blog.

Glue Girl said...

Jan, you are quite welcome to share some of my comments. I am afraid they might get you some negative comments from parents who may be reading your blog, though. Sometimes I think parents believe that because their tax dollars are paying for their childrens's educations, they're off the hook for teaching anything to their children. It is I who am honored to know you, my dear! Peopple who are authors are my heroes. Reading is absolutely what has molded me into who I am. I think it would have to be one of the hardest jobs in the world; putting everything you have on paper, trotting it out for the world to judge, then sitting back and listening to the critiques. Cringe. I think about when I grade or help a child proofread their work and how they must feel when I am putting red ink all over the place - I never give anything less than a 75% on a final piece of writing unless a student doen't complete the assignment.

Jessica said...

Thanks for your ideas..I look forward to using them more and looking forward to reading some other ideas you have.