Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Look up! What are your inspirations?

Parker Stockman

Over the weekend, I went on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s architecture boat tour with a friend. The docent was very informative and very passionate about the architecture of the great city that houses Columbia College Chicago. After talking about each of the buildings along the river, he mentioned that the symmetry and the adherence to a buildings surroundings are all around and in so many cities. All one has to do is look up.

This man got his inspiration from buildings, from looking up at them and considering their context, their surroundings, and the nature around them.

“Look up!” he kept telling us.

I’ve decided I need to look up. At buildings, sure, but at other things, too. What are my inspirations? So many times, writers just stick to what they know. They stick to the events that shape them, the moments they’ve lived or heard about from friends, or the surroundings to which they’ve grown accustomed. But looking up offers us more. Metaphorically, looking up gives writers the ability to stop crafting and just observe for a minute. Carefully take in the details. What do you see? What else could it be? What does it remind you of? This can apply to what a writer reads, what he views on the news or television, what she notices in other work and the way people interact with each other around him or her.

When we passed River City in the South Loop on my tour, I couldn’t help but notice how alien the building looked. Not only the design, but the materials—it’s such a cool design, but to me, it looks drab because of how it’s colored. Then, I thought of a book I’m reading in one of my classes, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, and I wondered how I could use this building fantastically. How could I describe it? Where could I locate something like this outside of Chicago? How can I let something as simple as looking at a building influence something completely different? I wondered how someone that had never seen that building would draw it if I tried to describe it to him or her. My imagination was running!

Today, I was walking to school early and it was dreary, so I took this picture:

It made me wonder how I could relate what I just saw to my writing. What does this weather evoke in me? Could I write stemming from the mood it puts me in? How can I write about weather in a new way? Why is this pulling my attention? Similarly, we must consider our own symmetries on our work, how we adhere to what’s been written before us, and what we offer that is new, just like the docent mentioned architecture does.

As a writer, these are questions we consider—how things pull us in different directions, why, how we can write about them, what is new; the list goes on. We must allow all that we encounter in our days to inspire us. We must be passionate about what we see and what we write. We must be more observant.

We must look up.

What do you think? As always, add to my margins.

Look up! What are your inspirations?

Over the weekend, I went on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s architecture boat tour with a friend. The docent was very informative and very passionate about the architecture of the great …

Creative Writing - Fiction MFA Parker Stockman, parker.stockman@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

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4 Comments

The other day after class, I looked up and remembered that I live in CHICAGO, yet I’m always in such a rush, I don’t even take in my surroundings. We live in an amazing and beautiful city. I find myself writing about Iowa, which is where I spent the first 23 years of my life, but why am I not writing about Chicago? I wanted to get out of Iowa, but maybe I’m writing about it because I know it so well.

I really like your idea about taking something and imagining it in a different world. You could imagine it in a different time or place too. Great, thought-provoking post, Parker!

Interesting how the act of NOT looking up becomes a point of pride for city-dwellers- such a ‘touristy’ thing to do, yet looking up is probably one of the most inspirational views in the city.

On a separate note, River City really does look like some kind of sci fi colony on the inside- I’ll show you a picture sometime!

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