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When A Picture Isn’t Worth a Thousand Words

As I was brewing my coffee this morning, a rich peppermint mocha blend that isn’t “in season” but that I was in the mood for, I found myself wishing that I could take a picture of how it smells. I don’t have the words to describe how delectable the aroma filling my kitchen was.

That’s where I struggle the most as a writer. I want to be able to describe the scene so the reader feels as if they were there. The smells, the sounds, the feel of the breeze or the sun or the rain on your skin. I can take pictures with my camera, but they don’t tell you the whole story. Good writers draw a picture with their words. And I want to get better at that. To do that, I think a person has to experience it and then write about it. 

Yesterday my friend and I went to the lake to look at the sailboats. She had never been, I had been once before. I had taken pictures once before. When we got out of the car, it felt like I was experiencing it for the first time. I had forgotten the sounds at the marina. You can’t hear them in photographs. If you had been around sailboats or marinas I suppose you could draw on your memories, but for those of us who haven’t had a lot of exposure, the sounds and smells are just as wonderful as the sights. The geese squawking. The bell clanging. The water lapping the shore. A fish jumping in the distance.

You can’t feel the stillness of the heron perched for it’s catch. Or the deer grazing in the meadow, never taking his eyes off you. 

It’s true, video can help you experience those things. But what about the smells? I don’t even know how to begin to describe the smell of the lake. Or the clean air in the middle of nowhere. 

What about the feel of the sprinkles hitting your nose? Or the crisp, cool breeze chilling your skin?

How do you experience all of that in a photograph?

The truth is, you can’t, unless you allow yourself to pull from memories you might have stored. But if you don’t have those memories, it’s hard to fully know the experience. It’s not the same as being there. Cliche, but true. All the photos and the words in the world can’t replace experiencing something first-hand. 

By all means, continue to read books, look at photos, watch videos, take “virtual tours”, but most of all, get out there and experience it for yourself! Adventure awaits! And take a friend along to share it with!

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