Sunday, November 02, 2008

Baha'i Pilgrimage and descriptive writing

From time to time Leicester Writers' Club organises competitions to stretch the capacity of its members. It is a good exercise for a poet to write the opening chapter to a novel. Or for a novelist to write a poem.

This time the competition was for a travel article of up to 1500 words. To cut a long story short, I decided to write about the ancient city of Acre, which I visited as part of my Baha'i pilgrimage. In order to write about a place, I need to re-visit it in my mind - which made this competition particularly pleasurable for me.

This process - of putting myself into a place in order to write about it - is fundamental to my approach to writing as a whole. It is far more important for me than thinking about sentences and metaphors and styles and techniques.

If you want to have a go at it, try this: Get your paper and pen, or computer, or whatever you usually write on. Choose a place to write about. Close your eyes and remember that place. Picture it in your mind. Remember what the air smelled like, how cold or warm it was, what sounds you could hear. Put yourself into the place. Imagine yourself standing there or sitting or however you remember being. Allow yourself to notice things about the place. Spend time savouring the memory. Enjoy it. Then open your eyes and jot down a few things about your experience. Things you smelled or touched or felt or tasted.

That's all there is to it. The remembering is more important than the writing.

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