This morning I was half-listening to the morning news while doing my usual routine, reading blogs and emails. When I looked up at the TV I said, “Cookie Monster robbed a store? That’s an interesting way to disguise yourself.”
Cookie Monster in an interrogation room.
My husband, Bob, looked at me like I had three heads. The perpetrator was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt. In my defense, the photo captured on the surveillance camera wasn’t clear. The lines were blurry. Fuzzy, like fur. At first sight, the stick-up man looked just like the cookie monster. Well, to me he did.
What was actually on the screen.
My reaction, and quick recovery so my husband wouldn’t think I had totally lost my mind, was: “Oh, sorry. I was looking at him through my writer’s eye.” That seemed to satisfy Bob. Phew, close call. I could have faced a seventy-two hour psych hold in a padded cell for “exhaustion,” the celebrity excuse.
I’m only kidding, but it got me thinking about how Bob hadn’t seen the same thing I had. I swear I saw a googly white eye, too!
Writers look at the world differently than anyone else. Some are born that way and for some it’s a learned behavior. The end result is the same. When we, as writers, look at a person– whether we just met them or they’re someone we know well– we notice the way they speak, their mannerisms, their stance. I’m an eye and teeth person. That’s the first thing I zoom in on upon introduction. When speaking with someone, I automatically see tiny details in their eyes… golden flecks swimming in pools of sea-green lagoon water, or inky black bands around crystal-gray iris’ like an enraged wolf, or diamond-sharp specks of turquoise in a galaxy of electric blue. You get the picture.
When you vocalize your discoveries to non-writers they tend to exchange a muddled glance. Until, you try to recover with, “I’m a writer.” Then you get, “Oh, okay!” Like suddenly everything became clear. “You’re creative!” *flash air quotes* I take it as a compliment, even though I’m guessing most times it’s not. Needless to say, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. But sometimes it just slips out. Thankfully this mainly happens at home. And Bob’s used to it by now. He just gives me a slight smile, like a proud papa.
That reminds me. A while back, I can’t remember exactly when it started, Bob invented this cool little game to keep my literary juices flowing. If you haven’t already guessed, he’s my loudest cheerleader. While watching a movie, a TV show, strolling through the garden, taking a walk, or even while driving, he picks something and says, “How would you describe it?”
Sometimes I don’t feel like playing. I’ve either just opened my eyes, or I’ve already been writing for six or eight hours and I’m spent, my brain shut down for the night. Usually the latter. Still, I try to humor him by describing the image or scene in great detail. What I’ve found is, it has really helped me with my writing. Who knew? By Bob wanting to hear how I would go about rewriting someone’s scene or describing an inanimate object, unknowingly he has forced me to look at the world like I’m writing passages in a book. I have to say, most times what I recite is terrible, for reasons mentioned in the above– his timing sucks! Now, however, I find myself playing this game alone in the car, because it’s great practice to keep sharp.
Just recently, I’m ready for him. After so many years together– we just celebrated seventeen years over July 4th weekend– I know what he’s going to say before he does. Therefore, I mentally rehearse my answer. I haven’t let I him in on my little secret yet, and probably never will.
He believes the response is just off the top of my head. Shh, don’t tell him. The new responses are better than what they were: “Uh-huh, okay, I can see that.” Pause. “I suppose,” muttered under his breath.
What do you do to stay sharp? Have you ever had “the writer” slip out in public?