Creative Challenge: People Watching

One of the ways I get myself out of a rut and crush creative block is by challenging myself. I enjoy pushing my own limits and forcing myself to get outside of my own little box.

An aspect of my Inspiration for Creation blog is the opportunity to share my experiences with you – little bits and pieces of my ongoing search for inspiration, and hopefully nuggets of creative wealth in the process. Initially, I thought I’d just do my own creative experiments and then blog about it. But since then, I’ve come up with a more interesting idea. And it involves you. (Yes, you.)

A New Twist

Every so often I’m going to propose a Creative Challenge. It’s for myself, but also for you. Of course you won’t benefit from it unless you participate, which I hope you will. Worst case, you’ll have fun. Best case, you’ll make an amazing creative discovery within yourself. I hope you’ll find inspiration.

So here’s how this will go down: I’ll issue the challenge and give you a few days to work on it. Today is Thursday, so you’ll have the weekend and then we’ll meet back here next Tuesday and see what we’ve found. And if you read this post after Tuesday, please still feel free to participate. There are no deadlines. (And also, if you have suggestions for future challenges, please let me know. I’m always open to hearing your ideas.)

Most of these challenges will be geared toward writers. Writing is my focus. But I would love to have participation from anyone – even if you don’t think you’re a great writer. (Think of it as practice.) This is really just about having fun and encouraging each other in the process. And what you share will benefit others, too. I guarantee it.

So, without further ado, here it is.

The Challenge

  1. Go people watching. Park yourself someplace (at a location of your choice) and discreetly observe the people around you.
  2. Based on those around you, develop one (or more) character(s) and create a fictional short story about him (them).
  3. Post your story in the comments. Also, don’t forget to tell us the location where you scoped out your characters. It will be more entertaining (and enlightening) that way.

I’m not concerned with word count. A few paragraphs is fine, but feel free to write more. I’m not putting any kind of length restriction on it. I’ll post my own findings on Tuesday. Come back then to swap stories.

See you then!

6 thoughts on “Creative Challenge: People Watching

  • When I was young my girl friend and I used to go to parks, the big RR depot in Chicago, the beach or anywhere and carry our sketch books to make sketches of people. I did this for quite a few years and still have the books.
    Some of them were people I knew and it is fun to see them again when I dig them out of storage. I did not own a camera then.

  • Through my window I can hear everything from the street for a block and a half. Gun shots from six blocks. The s—- organ piping out of the Steamboat Natchez all the way across the four blocks of Louis Armstrong Park and the six blocks of the French Quarter.

    Today I stuck my head out the window, although I wasn’t prompted from any noise. Directly below three people were sharing a cigarette against the front of the house. (Actually, they each probably had their own cigarettes.) It wasn’t the first time I had hovered over people down there completely unawares. Instead of acting like I had a right to look out of my house, I cowered and shrunk, peeking over the ledge. Why didn’t I hear these strangers? What were these white people doing in my neighborhood? They lingered awhile before crossing the corner of the Treme Center’s lawn towards the Quarter.

    I was going out. I needed to use the internet. The weather was gusty and spitting. A kid on a BMX bike with a child on the handlebars whizzes past me through the rush hour traffic on Rampart St. I stop on my bike waiting for the car gauntlet to slow.

    Café Envie is packed, but I kype a table just as the previous patron stands to leave. I get on facebook and see my sister’s post for her blog “Inspiration for Creation”. She’s proposing a creative challenge for writers to start people watching for inspiration. I look up from the screen. There they are, across the room, my three stoopers: Boho girl, Chunky guy, and Green messy hair kid. They’ve been joined by an older “youth pastor” type and an anonymous young girl. I think they’re playing Apples to Apples. Green Hair looks up and we briefly make eye contact. I wonder if my eyes are betraying a sense of recognition.

    I get lost deep in the interweb. I gaze in horror at the “Texas sized plastic trash island” on YouTube. There’s a picture of a pelican carcass with milk jug lids and sandwich baggies where its stomach used to be. Trashducken.

    I notice I’m the only one left when I get up to leave. Peddling down Ursalines and around a group of tourists on a Haunted History Tour I pass a drunken man on a cell phone gazing up at an empty street pole, looking for the sign. Where’s Bourbon?

    The house feels stuffy. I had closed the windows because I thought it would rain. After I set my bag down I make the rounds to open them up and get the air flowing. The NE side of my house hangs over two empty lots so there’s a clear view all the way down the street to the elementary school on the next block. Around the corner three figures come strolling. The Big guy’s holding a plastic bag covering something flat and round that I imagine to be a bunt cake. The light is off in the hallway by this window, so they can’t see me. I still shrink back a little. I rush to the next window and on and on, hiding always behind the curtains, watching and trying to listen. How are they so quiet? I get to the last window on the opposite side of my house just as they round the corner to Dumaine St. I squint to try and find them moving between the houses. No luck.

    Later that night I climb up on my roof, which overlooks several neighbor’s yards. One backyard always gets my attention. It’s a flop house, always a different person doing their laundry out on the porch where the washing machine sits. A fairly new shed boasts an entire garage door for its side, and it’s from those high windows I can see the blue flickering light of a TV. If my trio does live in the city, this would be the sort of place. I wonder…

    • Love it, Carmen!

      You have me curious now…how much of the story is fiction…or is it all true? I’d love to hear more about the strange trio that hangs out in New Orleans. Maybe you can stalk them to find out more

      And the voice you’ve created is very mysterious and melancholy. It reminded me a bit of one of those old fashioned detective stories. It made it fun to read.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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