I took a “Writing from Personal Experience” class in Cambridge taught by Mopsy Strange Kennedy. An exercise she often assigned us involved going on “writerly walks.” She encouraged us to travel our usual paths but make the effort to really notice – maybe for the first time – the details along the route: the bicycle chained to a post, the balustrade in need of paint, the torn screen on a window. After the walk, we were supposed to write about a particular object, the more mundane the better, but the purpose was to infuse that object with meaning. It was a good way to develop writing muscle as well as the art of paying attention. I noticed quirks and color and inconsistencies. I noticed the way the sun reflects off a window or the way steam rises off hot pavement, windows that were open wide and music that traveled to the sidewalk, even the scent of hot pizza escaping a delivery bike’s insulated red container. I noticed trash and dog poop, as well as crocuses pushing up through the earth.
Aiming to post a daily photo on Instagram requires a similar practice. When taking photographs, I am not looking for smell or sound, but for an interesting tableau. It’s easy to take our routines for granted, but when searching for beautiful patterns or color or amusements, we have our eyes wide open. Social media can be blamed for a lot but, for me at least, when it comes to Insta, it adds an artistic distraction to my day.