I've just had a lovely weekend running a writing workshop with the best possible group. We looked at looking mostly. How we didn't always do it, how we could do it better, how just by looking we could spin stories out of the air.
Here are a few of the exercises we did....
a) we made lists of ways we could record travel - by postcards, by scents, by journals, by luggage. As many ways as we could. Although we didn't go on to do this, there's so much you can do with this list - use one particular method to record a relationship for example. Or a psychological journey. But even just making the list made us all realise that there's never just one way to tell a story. And that often the slanted way tells more.
b) we wrote advertisements for our perfect muse. And then we wrote up what happened in the interview when s/he applied for the job with us - but from the muse's point of view! Amazing how much this particular exercise tells you - a way of watching yourself at work!
c) we drew up a list of the ten questions we would like to ask someone. Not the usual - where, what, when - ones. And then half of us become characters to answer these questions, before swopping over. It was magic to see the stories being written in front of us just from something as simple as 'what is your favourite food?' or 'what makes you cry?'. Best question, 'what music would you like to die to?' Oh, and we wore silly hats for this one. Silly hats are always good to get into character.
We did lots more too.
And then after we had thought and practised looking for what seemed like forever, I asked everybody to make a list of ten things they could see from where they were sitting that they hadn't noticed before. It seemed impossible to start with, but then of course we all ended up with many many more than ten. Some huge things too. That we just hadn't 'seen'.
Keep looking and you see more. It's exactly the same with writing. The more you do, the more you have to write about.