Thinking about Writing (By Qian Ji, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant)

Thinking about Writing

By: Qian Ji, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant

Photograph credits belong to Gene Huang

When thinking about writing, the first thing which came to my mind was some pictures shared by an engineering Ph.D. student in Dr. Goodson’s advanced writing class. It was in the summer of 2012 and one of the first courses I took in my Ph.D. program. I recall at the end of the semester the young gentleman showed us his pictures and told us that he likes taking pictures during his spare time. He explained to us that it is amazing that there is so much in common between writing and photography.


I asked him to send me his photos after class and told him the photos would be my guide on how to write. With his permission, I would like to share them with you.


1. Let the theme stand out. What is your topic? Write it clearly so, people do not have to  guess. 



2. Focus on the details. Small things in our daily life can provide great practice for both, photography and writing. For example, try to describe your breakfast. Write down every small detail. This plant seems so comon on our campus that you do not really feel its existence. Take a picture or write about it and you will have a different feeling about it.



3. Use a comparison-and-contrast technique. This nice picture has some features such as contrasting, dark and light and writing can be strong and weak, or reflective and descriptive. 



4. Be Patient! Get close to the subject, take your time to observe it. You will produce something to satisfy yourself and others.  



5. Just practice and keep practicing. Just go to the park, go to the mall, go somewhere you can find an interesting subject. Take pictures and you will notice your progress just after a short period of time. Find something to write about, just write. Write several times about it, you will notice that your writing is improving. 




6. Lots of practice! This is the picture after hundred of tries, just keep practicing!



7. Make plans. For example, I always wanted to take a picture like this. I want to have these elements: the sunrise, mountain outlined in the dark or light, with lots colorful clouds before sunrise. Thus, I need a very detailed plan the best season to go to Big Bend and experience this kind of sunrise. I also need to know the exact time that I should reach the top of the mountain!



8. Edit, edit, and edit. In order to produce such a great piece of art, you must edit. The same applies to writing. Let us reflect on what Dr. Goodson presented in our writing class. She said imagine in the museum, in the center of the main presenting hall, within a glass cabinet, there is a fine porcelain piece exuding a charming light and the curve and texture are incomparable. When we are gazing such a precious works of art, it must come to us subconsciously that there must be a talented artist who was willing to spend time - hundreds or thousands hours of working just for this one piece. Nevertheless, such a beautiful piece of work starts from a handful of soil. 



9. Finally, compare these last two pictures. It is very important to believe in yourself and your writing and photography will show it.  You have to have the feeling that from the very first draft.  And believe there is such a scene with dark mountains, inlaid clouds in Phnom Penh, and sunrise light.