The reality is, that IS what I was doing.
I wasn’t planning to make a discovery about improving writing. After all, I’ve been facilitating writing programs since 1999. I’ve got most tips and tricks possible rumbling around my head someplace so I wasn’t expecting to have a “Eureka!” and an “A-ha!” and a “By Jove, I think Instagram’s got it!” all at once.
It was a simple enough photo, after all, nothing fancy. It was nothing fancy on purpose. I was attempting to convey visually that Gratitude didn’t have to be a mountain-top, sunset on the beach, “some enchanted evening” sort of experience. Gratitude is in the puddles after a March rain, it is in every day architecture and the fast food restaurant getting your order right sort of moment.
Here’s what came out in a rather curvy, meandering fashion.
I woke up grumpy after falling asleep angry. I know better than this. Guess I needed a refresher… Perhaps you did, too. Reminded of a going to sleep gratitude practice a la Meister Ekhardt and apparently Alice Walker has a similar quote. Love this image being decidedly ordinary. We don't need sunsets on the beach to be grateful, we simply need to open our eyes to what is and let our hearts offer the narrative.
- I wasn’t looking to “write well” I was simply allowing my thoughts to unfold on the page. I didn’t recognize it until the last sentence came out, but I was allowing my heart to offer the narrative.
Let me repeat that final sentence:
We don't need sunsets on the beach to be grateful, we simply need to open our eyes to what is and let our hearts offer the narrative.
- Sometimes on the way to writing well we forget to have fun with the process. When I was writing this Instagram description, I my only aim was explaining gratitude and having fun with the process. What would happen if I took all my writing to be based in fun, gratitude and surprise?
- Instagram is not a space we look to for spectacular writing. We look there for images and perhaps for hashtags. Lately there have been more paid ads and now there is talk of it becoming more "like facebook" with our feeds being based on relevance. I note in my profile I include – almost as an aside – "expect to be surprised!" What if each of us looked to bring more surprise into our social media activity? What if we each brought more surprise into all aspects of our lives?
What will happen if I don’t keep all my writing fun, even social media snippets? Writing will become another chore, another “must do” in an endless string of duty instead of the love affair I have known it to be.
Are you ready to experiment with Instagram?
Here’s your challenge:
Sometime in the next twenty-four hours, choose a photo to post on Instagram. Decide on a maximum time to spend on writing the post. I suggest no more than five minutes.
Then simply write. Five sentences should do the trick.
Don’t try to write well, don’t try to write anything insightful, just write what you see. Tell the photo’s story – and perhaps your place in that visual narrative.
I tried this a moment ago at the same spot where I recorded my Periscope video this morning.
I’m not thrilled with it, but it certainly cracked open a metaphor for me.
As the Kern River tumbles through the canyon into the valley, there is a long stairway and a door leading into the side of the mountain. I've never known where it goes, I only know it looks frightening. I've never seen anyone walk the seemingly infinite number of stairs to get to the door. Where could the door lead? What could make someone brave enough to take the journey in the first place? The fear I feel just considering these questions squeezes my heart. I don't want to ask, I don't want to look, I don't want to think.
And now, for the Periscope Videos that continued this particular stream of engagement:
Part One: How to Use Instagram to Be a Better Writer:
Stop trying so hard and simply write. Please.
Part 2: The Perils of the ShortScope
By the way, in the comments Marilyn said she tried and failed. Guess what? She tried again and she did a beautiful job.
Kelley accepted the challenge and I have yet to hear back from here – maybe tomorrow?
How about you?
What photo will you take and what words will your heart narrate as a result?
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