A few years ago I stumbled on a wonderful series of pictures by artist Corinne Vionnet. Corinne has created her images by layering hundreds of virtually identical images of prominent landmarks, each individual photo taken by a tourist standing in more or less the same place. Her images are striking to look at in their own right. But they also say a lot about the repetitiveness of a lot of travel photos.
One of the biggest challenges of travel photography is avoiding the 'postcard' perspective and finding an original way of portraying the 'classic' landmarks. There is always a way: waiting for the light to change, for an interesting person to cross the scene or simply moving around to find an unorthodox angle. As a keen photographer myself, this is one of the joys of travel. It also, I like to think, makes our travel tales a little more interesting for friends and family when we get home.
Success in this game, I believe, lies in allowing yourself to look at the world through your own eyes rather than through the eyes of others – taking your own pictures rather than replicating those of others.
This challenge of originality, and the key to success, applies just as much to writing.
Anyone who has started a blog or thought about a book project will eventually run into the dreaded doubt: "What can I say that hasn't been said before?" The sad truth is that there are few genuinely new ideas under the sun – most of the best ones were harvested by great thinkers hundreds of years ago. However – and this is very important – there is no one who has said what you want to say in your way. And nor can they.
So your challenge when you sit down to write is to ask yourself not just what you want to say, but how you want to say it.
Writing is a little more difficult than photography because the writer can't just wait for the 'golden hour'. On the upside, that means you don't need to be up with the sun in order to write a great sentence.
A good way to start is to write like you speak. Many people sit down to write and immediately feel the need to churn out the same old management speak as everyone else. It's like: "If I don't write like this no one will take me seriously". Wrong. If you write like that, no one will notice. Like the contributors to Corinne Vionnet's art, your work will look just like everyone else's.
Forget the way others write. Write like you write. You can always polish it up afterwards, but don't go so far as to lose your own 'voice'. The result will be better writing without having to be a wizard with words.
As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please add a comment below or contact me.