A Writer’s Notebook: Photo story

My wife turned our laptop around the other day and showed me this photo and said, “You should write about this.”  So, first, the photo, and then the writing.  And then, the exercise.

People think I do this for money.  I put out a box and I don’t object when people drop money in it.  In fact, I make a few dozen euros a day on weekends.  One Friday when the weather was nice I found forty-seven euros, five British pounds, and thirteen US dollars in there.  I bought a three-course meal and spent the rest on beer afterward.  I kept the accordion in the chair next to me.  The waiter asked me to play and I told him no.  I don’t play for just anyone.  I only play for her.  I haven’t seen her in the park yet, but she knows I’m here–I send her a postcard every week.  “I can’t explain anything in words,” I wrote on one.  “But I want to explain so badly, if you’ll just come hear me out.”  Another time I wrote, “Sometimes I get angry at you just for being angry at me.  It is a vicious circle.  But every day I’ll be there, hoping you’ll forgive me.”  A bunch more, all more or less like that.  One each week.  It’s been two years now.

I see her sometimes on the streets, going into a cafe or coming out of a clothes shop, but I never go to her.  I can’t begin to think how to, what to say.  All I can do is play for her.  I will always play for her.  Someday, I have to believe, she will come.  She will hear my song and she’ll understand.  Maybe she won’t forgive me–I’m not delusional–but if she can just know how much I miss her, that at least would be a beginning, again.

This is a familiar exercise by now. I’ve done it before, in the “1,000 words” exercise and the “Uninvited Guests” exercise.  The short version:  Write a story (or a poem or anything) based on what’s going on in the photo or on how the photo makes you feel.

My wife and I had both been looking at a lot of photos lately, over at the bizarre but brilliant photo blog of the band Summer Camp.  The vintage photos over at the Summer Camp blog are all fantastic, but they also use them as exercises of sorts, posting their own song titles as captions to the photos, a hint that those photos somehow reflect the songs.

Just before I began working on this photo my wife picked, I checked my e-mail and found a different exercise in my RSS feed from Lori Ann Bloomfield’s First Line blog.  She sometimes posts “random exercises,” and the randomness today involved working a line of dialogue into a story somehow.  She provided the line; it was up to me to fit it in.  So I decided to up the ante on the exercise a bit and added that to the work today.

Incidentally, this photo actually is my own–I took it in Vondelpark in Amsterdam back in April.  (The beautiful girl on the bridge in the background is my wife.)

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

2 thoughts on “A Writer’s Notebook: Photo story

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: