This post forms part of a serialisation eventually building into a complete reference on Journaling for Creativity and the writer's notebook. One that will demonstrate how to journal in order to improve creativity and effectiveness of artists, writers or anyone needing to be creative.
About this prompt
During the last few weeks, a sequence of pictures depicting classic statues dressed in modern “street” clothes has become an internet hit. The pictures are the work of two French artists, Léo Caillard and Alexis Persani. Our thanks to Alexis for kindly giving us permission to make use of them here.
The pictures hold a strong fascination to the viewer, because of the recognition that in them two worlds have collided. The photo-editing has been so cleverly done that there have been arguments about how it was achieved.
For me, the series is a wonderful example of how we all make assumptions about the people we see; from the details surrounding them, from the ripples they are making.
Without knowing anything about the person we make strong value judgments from the clothes they wear, the colours they choose, the accessories they carry and the poses they strike.
In the main these judgements are made spontaneously and subconsciously, and our behaviour and further assumptions are both slaves to the original value judgements that were made.
Whether these judgements are right or wrong is irrelevant, we as writers and creative journalers should have an awareness of the judgements we make and must develop the ability to question them and control them.
It is vitally important to not let them control us.
Prompt: Beware of assumptions
This awareness prompt is in two parts; learning awareness and field work.
Study Cailliad’s and Persani’s series of images by clicking on either of the images or links below (they will open in a new window). Whilst you are looking at the images, you will have a “street” impression of the characters in the images. However, your logical-mind already knows that the “street” impression you are receiving from your visual centres in your right brain is wrong.
These are not street people; it is the clothes that are confusing your senses and sending false judgements. Try to identify where you are making those judgements and in your mind attempt to distance them from the statue until you can see past them to the original statue. You are now aware of your own value system and can begin to exercise some control over it.
Hint: You will find it easier on some images more than others.
Make a journal entry about this.
‘Hipster in stone’ series
‘Street Stone’ series
Go to your favourite people-watching place and observe the more colourful characters there.
Look inwards and identify what it was about a person that you used to make value judgments. You won’t always be able to identify what it was; some visual clues you use will be extremely subtle.
List these and any relevant thoughts in your creative journal.
Finally, ask yourself how wrong you could be about that person from only using those value judgements. For example, if the scruffy lad started to speak in a well-to-do accent.
Make a journal entry on the possibilities of misconception.
You should regularly practice this until subconscious judgements are not allowed to control your assumptions of people.
After this exercise you should be aware of the potential power to form impressions from the visualisation of a physical appearance. Realise that your reader could jump to, or be directed to, a powerfully strong impression of your characters from suitably constructed descriptions.
Also be aware that they could equally leap to a dangerously misaligned impression of a character from a sloppy description.
You might like to consider ways of using a character's clothes, accessories, poise and mannerisms to direct the perceptions of your reader and so enhance your story.
Have you ever jumped to the wrong conclusion about someone? Misjudged someone only to be surprised later? If you have, or have any thoughts on the images and on this prompt, please leave them in the comments area below.
Photo credits: All images used in this post are used with the permission of the owners.
Photographer: Léo Caillard: 'Hipster in stone' series: http://www.leocaillard.com/
Retoucher: Alexis Persani: 'Street Stone' series: http://www.behance.net/alexis-persani