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Blog Your Block

In this week’s writing challenge, guest host Lorianne DiSabato invites you to turn the familiar into the exotic.

Image by NCinDC (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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We’re thrilled to have Lorianne DiSabato, a 10-year blogging veteran, as this week’s writing challenge host.

Lorianne is a writer, college instructor, dog-walker, shutter-snapper, meditator, and asker of great questions.

lorianne disabato

Lorianne has a Ph.D. in American literature and an ongoing fascination with Henry David Thoreau. She lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with her husband and a menagerie of pets. Whether exploring the Boston suburbs or elsewhere, Lorianne walks the world with a digital camera and the Buddha’s own mantra, “What is this?” Her blog, Hoarded Ordinaries, is an account of such journeys.

The stage is yours, Lorianne!

Re-seeing the familiar

When we travel, we look at the world with enchanted eyes; even mundane objects like taxicabs, mailboxes, and lamp posts catch our attention. But the familiar sights of our own environs are alien to people living elsewhere. The trick that seasoned writers have mastered is that of looking at old and familiar sights with new eyes, as if they were outsiders in their own hometown.

For this week’s challenge, take a hike.

The genre, length, or intention of your post doesn’t matter; what matters is that it sprang up close to home, in a place you might have otherwise overlooked.

More specifically, take a short walk around your own block: head out your front door, then circle the streets immediately contiguous to where you live. If you’re at work, you can take a lunchtime stroll down the street or around the office parking lot. If you’re mobility-challenged, you can sit on your back porch, front stoop, or near a window, looking out. The point is to take a moment to investigate your own neighborhood: specifically, the square block of real estate you see (and probably ignore) on a regular basis.

Once you’ve explored your own neighborhood with inquiring eyes, you are free to write whatever arises: an anthropological case-study, a murder mystery, a travel report. The genre, length, or intention of your post doesn’t matter; what matters is that it sprang up close to home, in a place you might have otherwise overlooked.

Blog your block

How can you see the familiar landscape of your own block with “explorer eyes”? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Slow down. Most of the time, we hurry from Point A to Point B. When you stroll around your own block, however, there’s no need to rush. Walk at what I call “the speed of dog”: slow enough to investigate every leaf, fire hydrant, and tree trunk.
  • Look in a different direction. If you normally keep your eyes down when you walk, look up. If you normally scan the treetops, look down. Make a conscious effort to direct your gaze in a different direction: up, down, left, or right.
  • Travel through time. Imagine what this particular place looked like three months, three decades, or three centuries ago. Who might have walked these same streets and sidewalks, and what signs did they leave behind? What human dramas might have transpired on this very spot?
  • Give a local weather report. Right now, is it warm or wet, cold or cloudy, snowy or starry-skied? What flowers are blooming, what birds are singing, or what furry creatures are lurking? Look at your neighborhood with scientific eyes, offering a log of the natural phenomena you observe.
  • Use your senses. As you walk around your block, what do you hear, see, smell, taste, or touch? Which of your neighbors plays the piano, badly? Where is the foulest-smelling trash heap? Which local restaurant offers the best Free Smells?
  • Spy on the locals. What other living creatures do you see on a stroll around your neighborhood, and what are they doing? Keep count of the baby-strollers, dog-walkers, hand-holders, or idle wanderers you see. Imagine yourself in their shoes and in their stories.

So, what are you waiting for? Head outside, walk around your block, then come back and blog your experience. I guarantee your report will sound exotic to those of us from far away.

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Comments

  1. Thank you, Lorianne. It felt like déjà vu in reading your post, as I just did something similar to this in starting a new feature on my blog called, “Pat’s Walkabouts”. There’s a lot of interesting things to behold in all the familiar places, if we only stop to look.

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      1. Thank you, Lorianne, for stopping by my site. It was nice to see you over there. I appreciated the feedback you gave and hope you’ll come back. 🙂

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  2. Great tips! I do this quite a lot actually. I live in a very traditional iconic neighbourhood in Barcelona, which of course for me is now very normal but for outsiders I understand would be awesome to see. The great thing is that interesting things are always happening here anyway. 🙂

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  3. Love this post! Since I’m a science fiction/ fantasy fan, I’m gonna work on the time travel. But would definitely prefer writing about the future than the past. Who knows, maybe I’ll come up with something worth posting on my blog. The “use your senses” suggestion should be interesting as well. Perhaps I’ll write about my experience with the rain on the usually sunny island of Jamaica.

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    1. Time-travel to the future is definitely allowed, as is writing about Jamaican rain. (Or maybe writing about Jamaican rain in the future…? It all sounds good!)

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  4. Lorianne, I LOVE this challenge! As I read through the hints, I could already see myself strolling down the block, my wife’s hand in my own; no conversation needed. We’re simply walking and silently observing. I’m gonna start tonight, by watching closely at my daughter’s softball game. Watch for my post in the next day or two ma’am!

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  5. Love this guest post! This is actually my favorite thing to do and something I always urge my friends to do – I imagine myself being a tourist and I try to look everywhere with ‘hungry’ eyes – everything seems different, unknown and magical then! 🙂
    I will walk around tomorrow and take a few pictures of this magical revelations and will write a post – thank you for this great idea!

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  6. How wonderful to be able to walk around the block! I broke my leg, foot and ankle during Thanksgiving Holiday and am still recuperating. I suppose you could say, I am limping around the block but it is so darn good to be outside again ‘doin the neighborhood’. My regular walk was one mile up to the Church, a few short prayers of thankfulness and on my way back home. I took it for granted like we all tend to do. I’d stop and chat with a few dog walkers and try my Spanish on the gardeners but I never appreciated walking like I do now. I think God may have slowed me down for a reason. I was always spinning, my mind on overdrive as I think up new tales to tell, smelling the roses was not a priority. You’re so right about what we look at and how we just hurry through it. I savor it now like a fine wine, what a life we have in this beautiful country. I gaze at the mountains, I enjoy the magnificent Jacarandas and all the spring flowers and yes, I am going to continue to hobble along until I get it right. Thanks for the inspiration and by the way, ask me some of your interesting questions.

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    1. “Where are you, and where are you going” would be an apt question (or two) in this context. 🙂

      A year or so ago, I sprained my foot, so I can commiserate about your broken bones. Slowing down may be a nuisance, but it has its own rewards. It’s a wonderful opportunity to cultivate patience and the ability to “be here now.”

      I hope you recover soon!

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    2. This sounds like the beginnings of a great story to me, I also am mobility impaired having no cartilage in my left ankle, but it doesn’t stop me from riding a bike thank God. But mostly I do well to walk around my sizeable corner lot. I love it!

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  7. I think when we are at home we get preoccupied with work, household chores, groceries, gardens, friends and family. our routine takes over, I love your encouragement to take a few minutes, appreciate the neighbourhood and see what is going on around us. This week I am travelling so I won’t be able to participate, but I will hopefully have time to read a few of the blogs….

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  8. This sounds like a great idea, walks are great for clearing your head and relaxing after a hard days work. Might have to take a wander this afternoon, might I suggest as another possibility exploring your neighbourhood in pictures, a picture is worth a thousand words after-all 🙂

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