One of my favorite places in the world to write is Stella’s Coffee Haus in Denver, Colorado.
Tables, dogs, and fire pits litter the front porch. I’ve sat there for hours, reading or writing, with my goldendoodle, Kaia, sitting near my feet.
In the back, you can choose a low, cushy couch, or one of a selection of different kinds of tables – long ones, bar height ones, small, square ones.
I’ll buy a soy chai and sit there, my hands cupped around the thick brown mug, drinking down the sweet froth and dreaming.
My favorite time of year to go to Stella’s is in the fall, when the cool air permeates, and the farmer’s market bustles outside.
Chomping down on a maple cookie from Martha’s cookie stand, I feel totally alive and in myself.
I run into friends every time I go, or invite them to join me. We’ll sit across from each other and talk about our work, and life. It smells of fresh coffee, and baking, and heat.
It’s there that this picture was taken.
I usually write first, and choose the photo after. But today, I decided to try something new.
I looked through my photos, picked one, and decided to write from there.
There are lots of advantages to photo-first writing. Here are a few of them:
1. It grounds you in the place and time of the photo. That makes it easier to incorporate sensory details, because you can see it, hear it, taste it, feel it, and smell it.
2. The fact that you took the photo in the first place meant that there was something there you wanted t0 remember.
3. Your photos are unique to you, so you’ll know your post won’t be a replica of someone else’s.
4. You’ve already chosen your photo for your blog post! No need to search through stock photos.
You can use all kinds of photos for this.
1. A photo of a person.
Start with a picture of your kids, your best friend, or your aunt, or someone you saw on the street while traveling.
You can write about your relationship, or what you’ve learned from them, or, if it’s a stranger, create a story about what their life might be like.
2. A photo of a place.
You can pick a photo of anyplace, from somewhere familiar, like your favorite coffee shop, to somewhere totally new and different.
Capture that place for your readers. Make them feel like they’re there.
3. A photo of a project you’ve done.
DIY bloggers take photos throughout their projects, for the purpose of writing about them.
But even if you took the photo a long time ago, and don’t have all of the steps on camera, you can still share what you learned from doing the project, or how you would have done it differently.
4. A photo of a product you are selling.
Do you sell jewelry? Look at a picture of a pair of earrings you’re selling, and let yourself imagine who would wear them. Where would she wear them? How would they make her feel while she was there?
Looking at a photo of one of your products can help you get creative. You can also take the product on the road with you and photograph it in different settings, and then write about your new photographs.
5. A photo of yourself.
Choose a photo that captures you in a vivid, memorable moment of your life. What were you doing? What were you learning at that time? How have you grown since?
Writing about yourself can be a powerful way of inviting your readers into your life.
Back to my photo…
Now that I live in Miami, I can only go to Stella’s when I visit Denver.
There are other coffee shops here, like Panther Coffee, with its incredible iced toddy coffee, its cramped inside and long concrete slab tables outside.
Or the Starbucks down the street, which is always packed with people, and where I go to escape my silent apartment.
It’s there where I’m sitting today, in a brown leather cushy chair in the corner, on the coldest day of the year in Miami (it was a shocking 45 degrees this morning), dreaming of Stella’s and savoring my hazelnut latte.
If you’re trying to figure out what to write today, look through your phone.
Choose a photo, and go there.