Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Watch and Learn

There is only one trait that marks the writer. He is always watching. It's a kind of trick of the mind and he is born with it. - Morley Callaghan

Yes, I’m always watching…

I also take notes – copious notes. I may not ever use them, but by God, I take them!

I observe my fellow human beings under a variety of circumstances. I listen (without guilt) to conversations happening around me, because WHO KNOWS when I’m going to hear some lovely little nugget that I can use in a story. I’m not trying to eavesdrop; really, I just let conversations flow through my brain until I hear something worth listening to.

In various meetings and other locations, I watch the way people stand, the way they talk, the gestures they use and the way they shield themselves with their clothing or accessories. People who fiddle with their glasses, women who touch their hair or their blouses, men who adjust the knot in their tie, touch their belt buckles (in an attempt to make sure their fly is zipped, no doubt).

The way people act in big crowds and in small groups. I watch and learn.

I may have a character who has to speak in front of a large group. Will she pat her hair before stepping onto the stage, or will she check to make sure her blouse is buttoned and her skirt is straight? Will she clear her throat, touch her earrings to make sure they’re both still there, button and unbutton her jacket? What will she do?

Then I wonder, do other people do this?

I’ve always been a “people watcher.” Even as a young person, I enjoyed “watching” people in various situations. I used to travel to visit my grandparents from wherever my family lived at the time and one of the joys in that was sitting by myself in an airport waiting for my flight to be called and “watching” life happen around me.

You can tell the true “watchers” from those who are just bored. The true “watchers” aren’t worried about being caught watching – they look about with glee, sometimes taking notes, even if they are just mental notes. The bored ones usually also quickly get bored with “watching” and move on to some other activity.

True “watchers” can observe for hours. They always find someone interesting to watch. Possibly the mother and child playing a game in the corner. The business man watching them over his laptop as he writes a note to his own children. The single man kicked back watching all the women walk by. The single woman watching him and occasionally wanting to smack him for his perusal of other women. The young couple leaning toward one another, talking softly and holding hands. The older couple, sharing a muffin from the coffee shop. Life is happening all around us and sometimes all it takes to be a part of it is to watch.

Watch & learn.

Happy writing.