UWT 26 – Experience Something Small

Inspiration and motivation can be found everywhere. You don’t even have to be looking for it, but if you are looking, sometimes the motivation is easier to find. It gets even easier if you have some idea of what you’re looking for.

I want you to do something for me. Get down on your hands and knees and look around. Don’t just look, but move your hands around. Perhaps you even want to gather what you find into a little pile for closer inspection. Just get yourself down there and take a look. It’s your floor. You don’t need gloves on to perform this exercise. What did you find?

On my floor it’s a combination of dog hair, people hair, a small dust bunny, some dirt, dried spots of water or something (I’m not sure what) but I also have hard wood floors. These things are common enough and float around all the time. If I work my way around the floor, I’m liable to run into at least one ant (I hate ants) and at least one spider. I’m sure I’ll find other bugs if I spend enough time down there, but my knees are old and don’t get around as easily as they used to.

You can perform this same exercise in the rest of your house, but how much fun is that? Go outside. Let’s get our hands dirty a little. You’ve got a patch of grass don’t you? Even if it looks dead or even if it is dead, go a diggin’. There’s always a great collection of bugs to be found if you look hard enough. Anthills are everywhere. What else can you find on the ground outside? What trash is there? Do you pick it up or movie it aside? Perhaps now would be a good time to go get those gloves. Is the trash fresh or has it been well weathered? Do you see foot prints? Can you make out the broken blades of grass? Are some blades partially eaten? Perhaps a clump has been dug up and the roots exposed. Are weeds starting to take over or are they the main covering for the ground? Perhaps you’re looking in your flowerbed and can identify the budding plants or sprouts.

Let’s get even smaller. Now that you’re outside on your hands and knees look closer at the ground, the plants, the bugs. How are they interacting with their environment? Is there a social community down there? Perhaps some piece of trash is more than just an obstacle, it’s a complete road block for some bugs. Move things around, change up the environment. Don’t just leave things they way they were. Look at that spot from different angles. If you have one, get a magnifying glass. Look even closer and see what separates one section of dirt from another. See how the plants interact.

Are you dizzy yet? Usually when I look at something tiny for a length of time it’ll mess with my head. I get a different perspective though. Even though I hate ants, I still will watch them even when feeding them a solution of boric acid and sugar mixed with enough water to make a watery paste. I’ll watch the ants drink and their abdomens swell with the bluish goo. I’ll see where they’re coming from, where they’re going, they’ll stop and tap antenna and continue on their way. I know they’re taking the bait back to their nest and I find that fascinating. How quickly I’ll have a small path of ants transformed into a mass of little soldiers all eating away.

But it’s not all about bugs and weeks. You can do this with anything. Look closer at your furniture. Really, look closer at the fabric of your couch. How does the light reflect when you brush the fabric one direction and then the other. Can you see the texture of the paint on your wall if you look close enough. What about the grain of the wood of your chairs, your floor, your banister, the texture of your carpet or rug. Look closely at a painting on your wall, or the ink of a pen on paper, the fabric of your curtains. If you look close enough, you can make out a lot more than just what your eyes are seeing.

What will this accomplish? It’ll get you thinking of things more than just what you initially grasp. As a kid I used to spend time with tiny cars and running over bugs, piling up dirt, mixing things together with my miniature world and seeing how things blended together. As a kid I wouldn’t even know what I was doing and I’d be staring close at something with my eyes crossed trying to get a better look at what it was. I loved looking at money and seeing all the different grains, patterns, colors.

Take something you have experienced and drop it into your writing. It doesn’t have to be the tiniest thing you find, but perhaps your character is sweeping the floor and a bug skitters out of the way. What kind of bug was it? What did you see on your floor? Or outside? Did something make you jump? Wrinkle your nose in disgust? Move faster than you expected? Perhaps you’re not even sure what it was that you saw but it acted like a bug, but was really something completely different.

Maybe you can even take it a step further. Look at the movie, The Incredible Shrinking Man. His entire world became the small and microscopic. Those little things out of the way. Even looking at more current movies like A Bug’s Life and Antz, or shows like Rescue Rangers. Everything tiny has a purpose and meaning beyond it’s ordinary, mundane purpose. Work it into a story and see where you can go with it. Put things together in a way that might not make sense at first, but will make sense one you have the idea more fully formed.

Don’t take the smallest thing you can see for granted. It’s there. If you get down there and look, it’s there. Why?

Until Next Time!


Posted on April 27, 2012, in Unorthodox Writing Tips and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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