english 101 concrete description

Go alone to the river or a lake or a cemetery, any place outside that will allow you to encounter the natural world and be alone. Choose a spot carefully, where you feel not only secluded but interested by, and in, your immediate surroundings. Think small. Record in writing only what your five physical senses experience. Write your first draft quickly, without editing, and leave yourself and your subjective viewpoint utterly out of what you write.

Do not use the pronominal “I” (or any variation of point of view, i.e. second or third person). Do not include other people in your descriptions. Be as specific as possible. Implode the moments, on the page, of your attention not simply to the leaf, the root, the stone, but to the precise leaf-hand of the white oak, the loblolly pine beading amber sap, the chunk of milky quartz streaked with mica. Memory should not invade here, nor should desire, nostalgia, philosophy, or subjective interpretation. Again, avoid any reference to the self. (And don’t avoid the “I” problem by using the passive voice, as in “a mockingbird is seen.”) Try to capture not only the image(s), as in a photograph, but capture in the same way all of the sense impressions available in a selected landscape. Particularly notice smells, which humans tend to give low epistemological priority, as opposed to, say, dogs. Do not attempt to impose structure on the paper beyond the use of those units of attention we call sentences and paragraphs.


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