Teens Can Write, Too!

Changing the world's opinion… as soon as we finish this math homework

Humans of New York and Writing Inspiration

Recently, I discovered the page that I now consider to be the best on the internet: Humans of New York. For those who don’t know, HONY (I’m going to use this acronym throughout the post) was started by photographer Brandon Stanton a few years back, and basically what he does is travel throughout the streets of New York and take pictures of anyone he finds interesting (with their consent). He posts these photos online, accompanied by a short quote they give about their lives or their favorite memories or something along those lines. But what makes this blog so special is Brandon’s insane ability to get complete strangers to open up to him, and the beautiful and thought-provoking stories that they share as a result.

Some of my favorite photos include this, this, thisthis, this, and this post, and honestly a million others that I promise I won’t bombard you with. But all of them, whether it’s the quote or the picture or just the look on the face of the person being photographed, are so real and relatable and amazing. And since Brandon finds such a broad range of people for his blog (yay diversity!), you really are seeing all kinds of experiences, many of which you may never have considered before.

What makes the page even better, perhaps, is the comments section, which seemingly counteracts all of the Forces of Evil on the internet by remaining mostly civil and interesting. Each photo and quote is accompanied by pages and pages of discussion and shared experiences and stories. And it’s those stories that remind me: at its heart, HONY is a page about people.

Books, too, are about people, and in that way each HONY post feels like a miniature novel. It has a story and a character attached, and it makes you think. Not only that, but like books, every post seems to enhance the way you look at the people around you, and it truly does give you a new appreciation for them and their internal battles. Even on another level, HONY does what novels should be doing more of: it gives a voice to those we rarely hear from in the media.

And for that reason, HONY is the kind of blog that reminds me why I read and write. I do it to tell stories, yes, but I also read–and write–to discover. Because I want to know and understand different kinds of people, because I want to feel close to them, and because I want to use stories to help me make sense of the world around me. And sometimes, for me, those reasons get lost in the stress of writing and wanting to craft a great book, and it’s why blogs like HONY have become so dear to me–because it makes everything clear again.

I think that maybe we all need our personal equivalent of a HONY. We all need that reminder of why it is we write. Because, let’s face it: writing is hard sometimes. And when you fall into the black hole that is revising, or when you hit a wall and just want to quit, it is so helpful to remember that you shouldn’t. To remember why you should keep going. To remember that, published or not, your words and your stories really do matter.

 ***

(Okay, I admit it. This post was 60% a way for me to gush about HONY. BUT SERIOUSLY. It is amazing, and I think writer/reader people will especially appreciate it since some of the stories really are worthy of being turned into books or movies or plays.)

(If you want to follow HONY, you can on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and probably elsewhere,* and you can buy the spin-off book here. Brandon also did a series on the people of Iran during his visit there, which I found totally fascinating. Also, if you’re interested, there are a bunch of off-shoots of HONY in a number of countries and cities, so if you want to find one more local to you and you live in a big city, search “Humans of [insert place here].” I bet there is one near you.)

*Most people seem to comment on the HONY Facebook, so I’d say that’s the best place to follow it if you’re interested in reading discussion after the fact. Also, you don’t need a Facebook account to read the posts. All of it is public. And if you do decide to check out the page, let me know! I’d be interested to hear what you guys think.

Stay awesome!

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About Michael Waters

I'm Michael, I'm eighteen, and I blog about YA books for Barnes & Noble.

14 comments on “Humans of New York and Writing Inspiration

  1. nevillegirl
    August 1, 2014

    I /love HUNY. It’s interesting to read, PLUS I like it because I want to do photojournalism (among other things) someday, PLUS it shows such a wide variety of people. It really makes me think about possible characters for my own stories. 🙂

    • John Hansen
      August 3, 2014

      Agreed! And ooh, photojournalism. Any other photojournalism sites/magazines worth looking at?

      • nevillegirl
        August 3, 2014

        Well, National Geographic is always a good place to start! *adores that magazine*
        I also really like We Are The Youth, which is a website for a photojournalism project about queer youth. It’s really cool to read all their stories. (It’s similar to HUNY in that way – with National Geographic, of course you get a story with the pcitures, but you don’t always hear from the subject of the photo. With WATY and HUNY, you do.)

    • nevillegirl
      August 3, 2014

      Oops, wait, I thought I included the link and I guess I didn’t! Here you go: http://wearetheyouth.org/

  2. Cait
    August 2, 2014

    I absolutely LOVE that Facebook page. I only heard about it, oh gosh…maybe a few weeks ago?? All the photos are amazing (I loooove amazing quality pictures anyway) but you’re right, it’s those snippets. They’re just really well written too, and peeks into someone else’s story. And I love the things people have to say! This kind of also combats the idea of “shallow people”….well, you know how in books there’s always the “shallow characters”? I don’t think that can ever exist. EVERYONE has a story. *ahem* Okay, mini-rant over. But this is an epic page. x)

    • John Hansen
      August 3, 2014

      EXACTLY! It combats so many stereotypes and we have, and it proves that everyone is more than what you see on the surface. I mean, the page sometimes features people who have done pretty bad things, but even so it lets you see the humanity in them. I love it so. 🙂

      • erinkenobi2893
        August 3, 2014

        Yet another reason why you should never judge a person by appearances. 🙂

      • erinkenobi2893
        August 3, 2014

        And flesh out your characters. (That’d be good too. 😛 )

  3. erinkenobi2893
    August 3, 2014

    The little girl one is just too cute! 😀 I just want to give her a great big hug. And write her into my novel. I need more cuteness in my novel…

  4. nevillegirl
    August 4, 2014

    Hey, can we get the listing for TCWT’s August blog chain? 🙂 Thanks!

    • John Hansen
      August 4, 2014

      Just updated it. Sorry for taking forever! 🙂

  5. Eliza McFarlish
    August 31, 2014

    When is the September blog chain? I really hope to participate in this one and I’m getting anxious for it to start!!

    • John Hansen
      August 31, 2014

      The post will go up any minute. So sorry I’m late. And there will be a little under a week to sign up (just comment on the post), so hopefully you’ll see this in time. 🙂 Excited to have you joining!

  6. Pingback: Writing Advice, Agent Interviews, Teen Authors, And More | Teens Can Write, Too!

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