Looking Out For…

Each month you are invited to search for something new in the world around you. The goal is to become observant, live as a wide awake person, to think about those things and to use what we notice as things to write about in our journals.

Join in the effort to become a writers and post your observations to your blogs. If you wish, you can take your observation notes and turn them into another form–a scene in a story, a poem, a letter, song lyrics, a dialog, etc.

October 2011

Think about something you want to observe: people or an animal in a place and doing something. For example: people on bikes, birds in places other than trees, dogs in the street, trash and cats. Try and document at least 25 of your chosen topic over the next month. In your small journal, list the differences you see between them. What do you begin to notice? What’s interesting about what you have noticed?


August 2011

A World of ColorFind colors you respond to in the world. Use the paint chip you drew from the classroom bowl and attempt to match them as you move about from place to place. Look around you and make notes of where you saw the colors and what it was that was the color on your chip. What thoughts or reactions come to your mind about your object or the place? Alternatively, you could document colors from your favorite books, or simply something you happen to be reading that mentions a color, or you might document colors from your dreams, your memories.




Do you notice the trees changing around you? Which ones? Have you noticed the wind? The rain? May is a month of change as the monsoon season arrives. Look for things around you that are changing. Describe the change– the process or the before, and the after.


Three lines by an eighth-century Chinese poet, Tu Fu describe orange trees. Mango season is upon us. How can you describe a mango in three lines? :

In the full of spring on the banks of a river–
Two big gardens planted with thousands of orange trees.
Their thick leaves are putting the clouds to shame.


Have you noticed the abundance of flowers on campus? What signs of spring have you noticed in Delhi? Describe a spring in Delhi to a blind person.


As you walk about the world this month, notice things in the natural world that move: birds, miniature bees, flowers in the breeze.  Describe their movement. What is this thing like the moment before it moves? How does it change through movement? What are the movements like–smooth? bumpy? sharp? gentle? abrupt? wide? sweeping? What are these objects or things saying in their movements? What is distinct or different about the object as it moves? What catches your attention and why? How are you moved by what you see?


Go some place and observe people: the library, the cafeteria, a mall, a street corner, a restaurant, a taxi stand. Tune in to the bits of conversation you hear. Listen and learn what motivates people, what they long for or dislike, what angers them or delights. Make notes of their words, gestures, behavior, and tone of voice as they speak. Doing this exercise repeatedly can help you understand people more and can help you breathe life into your characters.


Notice people’s clothing and accessories. Look for special details in the clothing or the way the person wears the item of clothing. Are the colors bright, patterned, or dull? Is the clothing spotlessly clean and pressed, limp, rumpled? Does the person wear many different pieces of jewelry, a single well-chosen piece or no jewelry at all? What is the person doing in the clothing—walking, selling something, sitting at a restaurant, leaning against a wall, sitting on a motorcycle, riding a horse? How old, approximately, is the person wearing the clothing? What is their attitude as they wear the clothes—proud, serious, bored, animated? What does the clothing do as you observe the person. Focus on a particular part of the clothing, for example, the hem of the sleeve or the hem of the pants. Does it drag, does it ripple through the air, etc.

What do you imagine the story of this person is, his or her thoughts? What in your observation leads you to that idea?


This month as you live each day, look for signs of happiness and contentment in the environment around you. What are people doing that brings contentment? What specific gestures, expressions, colors, sounds and expressions show contentment? What different kinds of happiness do you notice? Do people of different ages show happiness in different ways? Is there something you notice that people do that seems to make a person happy no matter their age? What is that and how can you tell?

Notice the temperature changes around you. How does this change affect you? Do you notice it affects others? How?


Observe dogs you encounter in Delhi. Where do you notice them? What do they look like? What do they do? What is unusual about the dogs or what they do or about how they are treated? How do the dogs act? Where do you imagine they live? Do they have owners? Can you classify or categorize the dogs you notice or their behaviors in different ways? What do dogs of Delhi have in common? What things make them different from each other? How are they different from dogs you know in some other country? How do the dogs connect to something else? What could the dogs here be a symbol of or a metaphor for?


•Look for things around you that are common, but that have a an important impact, they make a difference. What can you notice from day to day? Describe these things.

• Blue textures: If blue were a texture, what would it be? Look for blue textures and describe them.


• Look for unusual or interesting places water is found: give sensory detail to describe what it looks like that makes it interesting or unusual.Interesting things water is doing. Describe the place and action.

• Green sounds: Where are they? What are they? Describe them!

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