Thursday, August 12, 2010

My 24-7 job

I avoid funerals like the plague. When I was younger, I promised that I would never attend one, not even my own. Anyone who dared to open the casket at my funeral would be in for a shock, as I would not be there.

Unfortunately, circumstances have forced me to adjust my perspective on this. I still hate attending funerals, but I have had to attend a few especially in the last couple of years. A close family friend, a wonderful lady who was a surrogate mother to me in my formative years passed away a few weeks ago. I went to the funeral, but this time I had a plan. I would attend, but I would survive the onslaught of emotions by giving myself the role of an observer. I would take notes on how things were done and people’s behavior, mental notes that could be of use to me if I ever had to write a funeral scene. My intention of course was not to be disrespectful. This was about survival.

It occurred to me then that, by choosing writing as a profession, I have chosen a job where I am on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Many writers have a particular time of day when they write. Others have a writing target, a few lines or pages each day. Sometimes we meet the target, other times we don’t, but either way, we work. Every experience during our day, no matter how trivial is potential fodder for our next award winning novel. The interaction of our family at the dinner table may make for a more realistic scene description; a change in your neighbour’s routine may be inspiration for a story on domestic violence or murder. For me, watching my son enter a tunnel-like room at Brimstone Hill got me thinking of an adventure at this fortress.

Do you often find yourself walking through life as an observer, tucking away notes in the back of your mind for possible future use?

8 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I do find myself doing that sometimes. But I'm such an emotional person that most of the time I'm caught up in the moment and scarcely thinking about writing. Later, I will use the impressions I picked up, though.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

When young and while writing, we see life as sort of grist for our mill. We are so infomed and entertained. Seems as we get older, life affects us; we are in it.
Like in the old movie, Medium Cool.

Ty Johnston said...

I was like that when I was younger, but not so much nowadays.

However, I am guilty of what I call "fuzzy mind" where I'm walking around "trapped" in whatever story or universe I'm recently working upon. Really annoys the wife, especially when she's asking me what I want for dinner and my mind is in another world fighting dragons or something. Terry Brooks talks about this "fuzzy mind" in his book about writing (sorry, can't remember the title), and I was glad to find I'm no the only one.

Carol Mitchell said...

Thanks for the comments. The ongoing theme seems to be that perspective changes as we progress through life. I am at what may be the middle of my life so I will see how it goes and get back to you in a few years :-).

Liane Spicer said...

Much too often, Carol. I'm so busy observing a lot of the time that I forget to participate.

Farrah Rochon said...

Carol, I often find myself as more observer than participant. Maybe because I'm an introvert and am uncomfortable jumping into the fray. BTW, I hate funerals, too!

G said...

I usually find myself more as an observer. For example, the last day off I had from work, I spent it walking around the mall taking notes in a small memo pad. Why? I needed to come up with a good description for a character and about an hour later, had a dozen good ideas on how to flesh out the character.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I'm a bit of both. I would like to observe more, but I am way too nosy and opinionated to just passively observe. I find myself participating rather than observing. Lately I've been improving on the observation part, but still....