My freshman year of college, I had the world's coolest creative writing professor. One of our homework assignments was to do something we'd never done before. The purpose? To look outside our own perspective, to view things outside the lens we unconsciously get trapped in by our daily activities. To get a fresh look on the world.
Being freshman, my friend Reece and I got a brilliant, ridiculous idea. He'd never been slapped before. I'd never slapped a guy before. Neither of us had ever created a public scene. So, we planned an epic imaginary break-up at the local skating rink. We snagged our friend Emily to help us out, and the whole thing played beautifully.
Shallee: [seeing Reece taking off his skates in the seating area] Reece! What are you doing here?
Reece: [looking guilty] Oh, hey. Uh, just skating.
Shallee: [confused] I thought you said we couldn't go out tonight because you had homework.
Reece: I, uh, finished early.
Emily: [appearing from the skating rink] Hey, Shallee!
Shallee: Emily! What are you doing here?
Emily: Reece asked me to go skating with him. Are you here with somebody?
Shallee: [clenches teeth]
SLAP! [Yes, a real, full-on, cheek-reddening slap across Reece's face. Cue guy sitting on the skate rental counter jumping off and hollering, "Whoa!" Cue every eye in the rink on us.]
Reece: OW!!! What was that for?
Shallee: You jerk!
Emily: [aghast] Shallee! What...?
Shallee: He's going out with me. [glares at Reece] At least, he was.
[Exits stage right. Cue all skating rink patrons rubber-necking as they try to figure out who to watch-- the angry girl stalking off, the slapped and incredulous creep, or the crushed date.]
And there you have it. Not verbatim, but not a bad representation.
So what did I learn from this?
1. It's hilarious to stage a fake break-up in an ice-skating rink.
2. Slapping a boy hurts your hand.
3. Even if you're horrible actors, people will often believe what's happening right in front of them because it's, well, happening right in front of them.
Of course, number three was the most essential to my writing, though the others helped too. What can you do today to help yourself gain a fresh look on things? Go the opposite way on your usual walking route? Order a bizarre menu dish at a restaurant and be that picky patron? Take your kids to a park you've never been to before?
It's amazing how just little differences in your routine can make you look at the world in a different way-- and make your writing that much fresher. Isn't that what the writing world wants anyway, something fresh?