Beating Writer’s Block: Use Photographs

Use Photographs

An old technique that has been used regularly is to use a photograph for inspiration in writing. Writing workshops often include a short period of time for members to describe the character they see in the image, or to create a short story from the simple scene before them.

In the 21st century, it couldn’t be easier to find a stockpile of photos for you to use as a source of inspiration, if you don’t have a selection of your own to choose from. Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Stumble Upon, and even Facebook and Twitter, allow for you to find new images with the simple click of a few buttons. The former three allow for you to search for particular types of photographs, so you could find images including people, or images of a sunset, a forest, a beach, or whatever takes your fancy.

The important thing is to use the photographs in a short and simple exercise that will help get your creative juices going. My advice is to use Flickr or Tumblr for this, as they allow for greater freedom and wider variation. Start by choosing a site, choosing a topic, and entering it into the search bar.

If you’re stuck for something to choose, try one of the following: couple, beach, forest, city, party, old man, fireworks. If you don’t like those options, choose a word that describes your work in progress and search for that instead.

Action Time! When you have an image chosen, you have a couple of different options for creative exercises to use to help break through your Writer’s Block.

The first is simple: describe what you see in the image. Describe the people, how they look, what they’re doing. Describe the setting, the time of day, whatever’s happening in the picture. To take it one step further, give a person from the image (if there is a person in your image) a name, a personality, a job; describe their life story. Do the same with the setting; create a depth to it, give it a smell and fill it with sounds.

The other option is to create a very short story from the image you see, only a couple of scenes. Keep it under 500 words if you can – you’re just trying to get the words coming.

If you’re finding the exercise enjoyable, you might also consider choosing more images to write from, and attempt to join them all together in a single, coherent story. This additional challenge will require you to choose not just the words you need to write, but also to work out a plot in your head. If you’re writing a novel, getting those gears back in action is exactly the sort of thing you need to start doing.

When you’ve finished with the exercises, you might also consider sharing the stories online, along with the picture you used. Tumblr is suitable for this, if you have an account. Reblogging the image and adding your story can help provide the confidence boost you need to get back to writing your book – if you can share something you wrote quickly with the world, you can definitely move on with your work in progress!

Pro Tip: Set up a Pinterest for your favourite images to be stored in one place. Create boards for different moods and different types of stories you might be able to tell based off images you see online.


About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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