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We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end, we’re all storytellers. Creative Writing Challenges are here to…

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We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end, we’re all storytellers. Creative Writing Challenges are here to help you push your writing boundaries and explore new ideas, subjects, and writing styles.

To participate, tag your post with DPchallenge and include a link to this post, to generate a pingback and help others find the challenges. Please make sure your post has been specifically written in response to this challenge. We might just share your post on Freshly Pressed on Friday, and in our monthly newsletter.

At a concert. Snap. At a restaurant. Snap. Watching the sun set. Snap. These days, everything feels like a Kodak moment. What happens when you stop taking pictures, and use words to capture a moment instead?

During an early-morning commute last week, I found myself at the train station enamored by a group of birds chirping along a telephone wire. As I paused to appreciate the warm, late fall air coupled with the glint of pink sun creating a series of beautiful silhouettes of the sing-song birds, I noticed myself reaching for my pocket in search of my phone. “I need a picture of this. Better yet, a video,” I thought to myself.

For some reason, I stopped. It suddenly felt like a cop out. Rather than savoring the beauty of this simple morning, I wanted to save it, store it, and revisit it later by taking a picture. With the ubiquitousness of cameras and, more importantly, camera phones, it’s suddenly become much easier to snap a picture and process the moment later.

In the early days of photography, it took hours for enough light to shine through on the light-sensitive paper to leave a remnant of the image being captured. Fast-forwarding past the 1950s, Kodak, color film, and disposable cameras, we’ve moved into iPhoneography and the uncanny ability to snap a picture wherever we go at the tap of a virtual button. How has the ability to capture a moment at any point in time affected our ability to write about these ephemeral moments?

This week, I challenge you to mark your phone as off limits. Instead, the next time you reach to take a photograph, pull out your trusty notebook, open your favorite note-taking tool, or fire up the WordPress app.  Rather than giving into the urge to take a picture, write down your impressions of the scene. Who’s around? How does the air feel? What sounds do you hear? What emotions are you experiencing?

Using words only, take a snapshot of the experience. We’re looking forward to reading your imaginative scenes, sans photographs!

223 Comments

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  1. I woke up early this morning and saw a beautiful sunrise out of my window. As I watched the sun peek out of the clouds, I thought to myself that I should write about it but I wondered how I could translate what I was seeing into words. I continued to admire its beauty and even went outside to get a better look. But in the end, I couldn’t help but pull out my phone to take a picture. I think this is a great idea!

  2. I totaly disagree that words can summon up our emotions when I look at all the snapshots I took in the past. They trigger my memories and smells the laughter and the tears. No words can do that ever. The wonder of photos make time stand still while my words are forgotten I kiss the image of the ones I loved before they found the words why they had to leave me.

    1. But what if you don’t have a camera to capture the moment? Paul Theroux, for instance, traveled for years without a camera to force him to have to capture the moment with words and words only. I don’t know that you would get the same immediate emotional response as you would from a photo, but a good writer can still evoke a response.

    2. It is because we have never had to live in a world without pictures that we don’t know how to appreciate the substitutes!
      Of course photos can be powerful representatives of emotional response but words can often convey more and in different ways. I guess they both have separate places in our hearts!

    3. @Pieternel
      I am a photographer and have photographed weddings to riots for many many years I have had a camera in my hand.
      but you need to read more, some people write so beautifully that it can squeeze tears out of a demon, words were the first introduction of life, words were first used to tell a story, these stories stayed in the mind and were passed through the generations instilling life. Photos can bring memories and emotions to the fore, you still need words to share those emotions. For example a picture of a dog, is just a picture of a dog until you share the background story. So don’t let the camera fool you, it does tell the truth but you need words to portray the story behind the truth. :-)

      1. “Don’t let the camera fool you”—–I wonder how that sounds in different languages? A basic similarity, do you think? Same root, no need to translate. Like a song that you’ve heard before, even when you’re in a foreign country for the first time…………..

      2. Oh, I absolutely agree with you. To be honest, I never knew how to take a photo, somehow it does not turn out right for me, but if I look at a professional shot, I just immediately know the story. It is basically just there! My thing with pics is that if someone sees one will just “uuuu” or “ahhhh” and forgets to think about the story, and if a story is written, we forget to see it…

    4. Well, durn it, now I’m torn. I suspect there’s a picture accompanying your post somewhere, but the truth/beauty of your words tell me there’s really no need to see it. I am, what’s the word, nonplused. Dang, I obviously have to look up that word in a dictionary…..Silly, I have a choice of doubling the ‘s’…..because it’s maybe French………
      Nonplussed in Montavilla

  3. Words do indeed contribute the effect of the photograph, understanding exactly what we are seeing adds resonance. Especially what the photographer felt, what story the image tells..

  4. I love this challenge because I’m blind, so those millions of photos that people take do me no good, unless someone can use their words to describe them to me. Words say so much more for someone who can’t see than a photo can, it’s to bad that so many people rely on photos instead of words anymore. What a great way to make people think about how to describe those beautiful things they take such nice pictures of. :)

  5. Its a tough challenge. A picture speaks a thousand words whereas thousands of words cannot depict a beautiful scene. Very few can write so beautifully that you start visualizing the scene. You have to be a very good writer for that but no harm in trying.

  6. I like that “don’t let the camera fool you.” Unfortunately, thanks to editing programs, it does. I remember when takin pictures was an amazing thing when that moment was captured. Now all people, places, and things have to be questioned when they look amazing.

  7. I work in Hayward Wisconsin around some very tranquil, scenic lakes and woodlands, and many times I’ve stopped just to admire what my camera cannot possibly capture. I’ll have to keep this in mind next time

  8. Here is my story with words and no pictures. It is in fact a poem I wrote some time after I had a miscarriage, while I was on the train looking at the hospital where I had been for the pregnancy and for the miscarriage. The hospital has a chimney and it was covered in red at sunset. It was a moment of energy that I can only describe with words http://wp.me/p3B8xy-l4

  9. I so agree with what you wrote. I love great photos, but for me I don’t feel fulfilled when I snap constant pictures of my life, because I use all my energy thinking of how I want it to look, instead of how it really does look and what I’m really feeling and experiencing in that moment.

    For this reason I’m an utter photo failure, never carrying my digital camera or taking more than a few seconds to snap an iPhone shot of something I most want to share. I think my writing later may not be as accurate as a photo, but it allows more of my soul to seep through. And I can convey even something non-visual, like a thought process.

    If I were a great photographer, though, my opinion might differ :-)

127 Responses Ready to write? To participate, publish a post on your blog that responds to the prompt. Include a pingback and we’ll list your post below. Learn More