Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Writer and Observation

Still reading John Gardner's On Becoming a Writer. This time he talks about the writer as an observer. To be a writer takes a special kind of curiosity. Watching people and listening to their conversations. What does that gesture mean? Why that expression? By watching other people the writer adds to their way of expressing what they mean in words.

Mr. Gardner also related a personal experience that reminded me of a very dark time in my life and my reaction to what was going on. My husband had an aneurysm where the aorta comes off the heart. The doctor told me there was a fifty/fifty chance of his survival. Worried, I really was but I also sat in the waiting room with other people thinking about their loved ones. Besides my worries, I also remember saying to myself, this could be material for a book. Not the actual situation but the emotions, not only mine but the ones on the other people's faces. Watching them, I think I observed in one person or another all the stages of grieving. I listened to conversations and invented stories while I also listened and felt my own sense of helplessness.

When I read what he wrote on the subject and this was many years ago, I felt relieved. The splitting of the self into parts was one of the traits of a writer.

1 comment:

Taryn Kincaid said...

Yeah, I'm always making up stories about people, especially on public transportation or while standing in line somewhere. These are generally pretty fleeting, though. They never go anywhere. After holidays, when I'd drive home through the dark neighborhood streets near my parents home, I'd love to peep through the lighted picture windows that framed a family gathered around the dining room table. I'd sort of make up Hallmark Presents made-for-TV movies about them in my head.