As I was slipping this photo into my Project Life album for this past week I thought about how there's a few different ways you can view/interpret/imagine the story behind this photo:

ONE | Two kids playing nicely & quietly together (or at least parallel to each other) in peace and harmony.

TWO | One kid playing at his desk making lots of light-saber or sword-fighting noises while the little sister quietly snuck into the bedroom and is wrecking havoc on the in-progress lego organization.

Which one seems most plausible?

In this case, on this particular day, it was actually a little of both. There were moments of quiet and moments of kindness and then moments of frustration and lessons about sharing and a little bit of Mom intervention. "It's okay for her to touch your legos. It is not okay for her to break things you've built." "She's learning to play and build just like you learned how when you were younger." "Anna, let's go play with something else and let Simon have some privacy." Sound familiar?

Sometimes I see other people's photos and my mind immediately jumps to conclusions about what was actually happening when the shutter snapped. Things appear "perfect" or I assume they must be when in reality the story behind the photo could be something entirely different. What's the real story?

This is one of the reasons why words are such a gift in addition to the photos. The infuse reality and emotion and perspective.

My second thought, after slipping the photo into the page protector, was how many different stories could be told with this single photo.

I'm often prompted by photos to tell stories other than what's visible on the surface. Rather than a story that sticks to the basics such as "Simon and Anna were playing legos in his room" I'm given the opportunity to share more meaningful words about our life right now.

From the photo above I could write any number of stories including:
  • a story about their overall relationship at this moment in time - the good and the so-totally-normal-not-so-good and how it's evolving and changing.
  • a story about their relationship to their bedrooms: part refuge, part playroom, part portal to adventure (through their books & play), part storage, part dreamland, etc.
  • a story about how much Anna wants so much to be a part of Simon's world and the things he does and watches and talks about.
  • a story about legos and the organization process or how they are really one of Simon's most favorite things.
  • a story about the differences in each of my kid's personalities.
  • a story detailing memories of my bedroom(s) as a child. What did each one look like? What did I like/dislike about them?
  • a story about Anna right now - how into imaginary play she is and how she loves to make up her own stories about the lego guys adventures (lots of weddings) and how she's working hard to figure out her place in this world.

Sometimes it's easy to get stuck being too literal with memory keeping. This photo matches this story or thinking that there's only one story to tell (whatever was happening in the moment). In reality each photo can be a really wonderful jumping off point to tell a variety of different stories.

Here are a few tips and ideas for generating stories and creating scrapbook layouts/blog posts from a photo:
  1. Make a list of stories that could be told from that one photo (just like I did above). I love lists like that which include both facts and feelings. Make a layout that includes all those stories in list format and include the photo. You could begin each sentence with the phrase "right now" or "I want to remember." Check out One Very Big Boy and His Big Boy Room via Marta Writes for a great example using short phrases. I'm a big fan of writing journaling directly to my kids and I love how Marta did that here and I especially love that long list of oh-so-simple but oh-s0-wonderful things she wants to remember about her son right now. I need to do this for both my kids asap - things change so fast and these sorts of lists are so fun to compare over time to see how things have changed and have stayed the same.
  2. Ask the people (or person) in the photo to tell you about what was happening or what memories are evoked for them. If they are willing, have them write something for you in their own voice.
  3. You can also ask someone who is not in the photo to tell you what story they would tell - a spouse, parent, child, friend, etc. When I was working on the newsletter for this week I asked our nanny Katie what story she would tell from the photo of Anna & Simon in his bedroom. Her answer was the one about how Anna wants so much to be a part of Simon's world. It was cool to listen to her share what story she would tell.
  4. Use who, what, why, when, where, and how as a jumping off point. It's a great way to initiate the writing process. You might find as you start addressing each of these topics that a whole different story emerges that's really the heart of why you are taking time to scrapbook this story at all. Be open to that change and the possibilities for richer story.
  5. Know that there's no right or wrong way to choose what story to tell, pick one and just start writing. Write from that place where you head and your heart meet.
In case you missed my initial announcement l've got a new focus for this newsletter. Each week throughout 2012 you'll receive an email in your in-box with a reflection/investigation on some aspect of creativity. I'm using the broad term "creativity" so I can leave room to share a variety of different concepts. It might be process, it might be ways of seeing, it might be motivation, it might be questions, it might be simple inspiration, it might be a list of inspiring links, it might be memory keeping or mixed media or photography or something completely different.

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