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Being Observant

Every day, I have to walk my dog because for some reason when I was nine, I told my parents that if we got a dog, I would walk it every single day without any complaints. So we got a dog. And I walk it every single day (well, mostly, anyway). As for no complaining... well, I mean, that's not really important.

My method of dealing with things that bore me to tears is to space out. And I mean, really space out. I have basically no memory of French class. I can recall walking in, putting my books down, and then walking out when the bell rings. This was not news to my French teacher, who liked to call on me. Someone sitting next to me would proceed to stab me in the forearm with a pen until I wake up, at which point I would say in an embarrassingly loud and startled tone, "What?"

My teacher would give a derisive snort and then threaten me with detention. (For the record: he only ever gave me detention once in three years. I'm actually not sure what I got it for, considering that was one of the days where I'd paid attention and I did my homework and everything. But he's not the kind of guy you argue with.)

As walking a dog in searing hot weather is among the things that bores me, I usually withdraw inside myself and idly think about random things. This gets to the point where I sometimes stumble off the sidewalk and begin walking in the middle of a busy road without quite realizing it. My dog has saved my life more than once by darting after a squirrel on someone's lawn.

However, I recently read a post about how it's important to be observant as a writer. I decided to actually pay attention to stuff that happens around me as I walked my dog, because right now in my WIP, my character is an icky spot and I wasn't sure how to save him.

These are the things I observed:

- A butterfly and a moth were floating near a flower, and suddenly the butterfly flung itself at the moth, knocking it to the ground. The poor moth twitched on the grass while the butterfly smashed its wings against it again and again until it was dead. Reminded me of school.

- The exact way a terrifyingly large mosquito sucks blood from your suddenly-skinnier-and-paler arm, and how it feels to be such an insect-phobe that you can't even slap it away, but you don't want that horrible beast on your flesh. Also, it hurts.

- A little girl bashing a little boy's head in with a red plastic shovel while her mother coos, "Aww, how cute!"

- My dog sniffing feces.

- My dog sniffing more feces.

- My dog eating f- oh wait, okay, that's just not right.

And then, a squirrel raced past me, an orange clamped in its mouth. And inspiration struck. I suddenly knew exactly how to save my MC, and it had nothing to do with squirrels, oranges, or racing past teenage girls. I'm still not actually sure if the idea would have come to me whether I observed or not, but I guess it didn't hurt.

What about you? Do you make yourself pay extra attention to things going on around you, and does it actually help your writing?


Anonymous said...

I have this really bad habit of staring at people. I have no idea why but I love watching people's mannerism.

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