A songwriter and musician was captured on a radio interview, saying, “A lot of people are visited by the muse and forget it.”
I agree with this. I wonder why we as “writers/artists” don’t seize the moment and at least get a note or three down that we might recall our great insight to fill in the rest at a later time.
Creativity can be mighty spontaneous with me. It shows up at the oddest moments sometimes for me at least. Therefore I can always be found with pen and pad or digital recorder nearby. I know I can also plan writing time but it is the writing I do when the spirit moves through me that I am most happy with and most eager to share.
And, saying that, I also have planned writing that I am intentional about. My intentions for my writing time are to be a clearing for Creativity to flow through. I may have themes I write on and it could even be time to spend time doing research to write a better article. The point is I set a schedule but also allow for movement and shift in my focus, so long as it is helpful. What qualifies as helpful? If it moves me closer to my desired end writing goal, it is helpful.
I’ve taken to writing my observations when I am out and about again. I’ve been inspired first by the two writers I write with Thursdays AND by reading again the advice of Julia Cameron, Brenda Euland, and Ray Bradbury on Creativity. Some I know love the prose and ramblings of Annie LaMott, Bird by Bird, in particular. She is a keen observer as many a good writer is. Pick your mentor and invite in the Muse is all I am saying.
I realized that had actually lost my edge on observing the inner dramatics of life in a coffee house or cafe or an arboretum. My attention to background detail felt downright sloppy and I vowed to work on it. I got back into the habit of heading out and parking myself for several hours and I fell in love again with writing about what I was literally seeing and feeling and experiencing.
Coffee houses and cafes offer “the garbage collector” as British author Doris Lessing referred once to writers (collectors of details that they are) a chance to practice observing for detail and mystery and many an overheard dialogue has worked its essence into her stories. I heard her say this at a Stanford Lecture I attended back in 1990. She remarked that being a non-descript looking person, she could get away with being herself and taking in what was going on, undisturbed. That remark has stayed with me for over twenty years.
We all could watch what is going on about us.
We all could listen for the things not said by people.
We all could seek to understand more by observing without an agenda.
Have you ever tried this as a writing exercise? You can take in five minutes but you might be tempted to keep watching and waiting and listening to all that is going on around you.
Saturdays I spend at least an hour at the Taste Bar at Macy’s waiting for Bronte while she takes a class currently on improv. The prior class schedule had me there for four hours and a lot of life passes through a cafe in four hours. At first I tried creating a bubble and getting some work or writing done. But, inevitably I would take an interest in the other patrons around me or the interaction of the core staff that works the cafe. Myrna and Jay particularly are enjoyable to simply watch. When I realized I was missing a grand opportunity to practice observing and sharpen my wits, I started making a point to sit back, sip my coffee and take first mental notes and then notes for posterity.
All around me is dialogue, spoken or not, and sometimes it is down right outrageous.
Take Saturday morning for example. I thought I was witnessing a bit of a crazy person with a lot of personality issues but I now believe I was wrong. Those involved (a man and two women) were all quite unaware of the impact their loud conversation was having on others around them. They were literally unconcerned and doing their own thing. So I eavesdropped for the sake of stretching myself as a writer…
Macy’s Café, November 19, 2011 11am
Everything is not as it seems: Episode #1 — The Loud Talkers
Robert: You are so bossy. (He shouts into the echoey café at the woman in line with another, ordering coffee drinks and food.)
Okay bossy, where do you want to sit? One table or two?
I’m too sexy for my cane, I’m too sexy for my cane,” says the man in a tightly wound tenor of a voice that cuts through even the “white noise” from the woodfire oven and the seasonal music piping into the Macy’s Tastebar..
Melanie: Just sit down…Just sit down! (she barked still standing at the counter paying.)
Robert: Hi, how are you? (Said to a passing person he doesn’t know who gave him a quick and odd glance)
Melanie and the large young woman she is with join Robert in the corner window table and as the triangle continue a conversation. I cock an ear to hear what is the subject matter.Ah, boys, relationships…it always comes back to relating with us humans. I ponder sometimes if rocks and trees have conversations that are about processing feelings. The 20something appears to have a boyfriend issue. Robert and Melanie have their opinions and advice to give. They are determined to make her aware of something important. So I am privy to their dialogue and a small debate between Melanie, gruff and tell it like it is, and Robert who seems not to care who hears him play barking at Melanie?
The simple fact they are seated in the triangular corner near the entrance from the corner of 3rd and Pike means anyone who focuses can hear their conversation word for word.
Reflecting on this tonight, I am amused that upon seeing a surly and weather worn 50+ year old man in a plaid winter parka and black skull cap on his head, shouting unself-consciously at his companions in line ordering, I presumed he was angry or mentally unstable or both.
I appear to be wrong again. Things again are not as they seem. He is simply a loud talker with his loud talking friends?
They are friendly while being surly to each other and I am about to stereotype them–if I am not mindful.
Outspoken need not be judged as obnoxious. There is a lack of gentile finesse to their language and the tone and delivery of the questions such as “Who does she live with? Where does she live?” Someone is being deeply scrutinized.
Melanie: You cannot tell me…when a woman is heavy, it is hard for them…that is why she is…(darn that the clarity fades in and out like cell phone reception being affected by simply traveling through a neighborhood.)
In the background a tune catches my attention: the sound of a trio of women with Dean Martin, singing “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on that…” fills in the background entirely but briefly.
Melanie: I want her to understand…(outside a Transit busses roars loudly, drowning out the clarity a moment.)
Robert: I have never cheated on her and now she thinks everything I say is a lie.
I did my best to make sense of the crumbs of conversation I overheard for the sake of my exercise, but it is futile with the bus engines combusting the conversation. I will have to “make something up” should I use this trio in a future piece.
Their dialogue continues bouncing all over thematically but orbiting about a woman they all know whose problems are greater than there collective comments allude to. I find myself wondering how would they feel knowing someone was talking about any one of them? How would they feel if they knew I was recording some of the things I was overhearing that are causing me to smile and cock my head to hear a little better?
They never catch on that sitting in the windowed corner as they are, with the acoustics being what they are in this café, that everyone who chooses to tune in can hear it all, as though they are sitting really close –at the next table and not ten + feet away tucked in a corner. (I’m grateful for the chance to test my listening…smile.)
THEN a memory flashes through me of being at the San Francisco Exploratorium, sitting inside a big round concave white plaster sculpture with a seat in the center to sit upon. Vertically situated, it placed you up enough and set back into the concave “bowl.” Two bowl like sculptures face each other 20+ feet apart, and if you have a friend sit in the seat opposite you, you can literally whisper and the sound carries over as if they are whispering into your ear directly. I thought that particular exhibit was so darn cool when we took a High School fieldtrip to the Exploratorium. (Why has this memory flooded back now?
Acoustics is an art and science that I am glad to be aware of. People sometimes forget that sound carries and say some pretty darn personal things in public. You never know when a writer might be listening in and inspired by you, so by all means, keep on talking and I’ll develop my craft.
To the Loud Talkers, thank you for creating a moment for the Muse to visit me!