See, Don’t Think

Last week, on The New York Times website, I came across a beautiful and heartbreaking five-minute documentary called “Solo, Piano – N.Y.C.” The film, which I can’t recommend strongly enough, follows “a lone piano standing curbside in New York City” and “chronicles the interactions of passers-by as the piano awaits its fate.” The film was made by Anthony Sherin and tells its story entirely through images and sound. That is, there’s not a single word. Which is quite an amazing feat for a narrative film. And which had me thinking, yet again, of the power and importance of imagery in writing and how I’m attracted to prose that relies more on images and less on narration to tell a story.

However, I don’t find it all that easy to employ powerful, clear images when writing and instead find myself all to often falling back on narration that all too often falls flat. Which reminds me of a piece of writing advice attributed to Jack Kerouac (a little Googling discovered that this piece of writing advice was actually one of 30 “Beliefs and Techniques For Modern Prose” that Kerouac had written for and used himself). And the advice is this (No. 22 on the list): “Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better.”*

And so, taking into account Sherin’s excellent film and Kerouac’s visual advice, today’s prompt is this: Begin to write a scene taking place on a city street, and while the scene is up to you and can be a remembered scene or a fictional scene (feel free to take a few minutes for it to form in your memory or imagination), once you begin writing about the scene, you must write for 22 minutes without stopping, but if you do find yourself stopping, for whatever reason, remember not to think of words but of the scene, that is, try to sharpen the picture of the scene in your mind as quickly as you can and then get right back to the writing, which is to say the describing of the scene as clearly as you can.


*Others on the list I like include No. 10: “No time for poetry but exactly what is”; 24: “No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge,” and 28: “Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better.”