Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Looking At Ordinary Things In A Different Way

I had the best afternoon imaginable yesterday. I did nothing except play with my six-month-old granddaughter and tag along on a long stroll around a small lake called Jamaica Pond with my hubby and our daughter and baby Talia. Hubby (now known as Grandpa) was all strapped up with the baby carrier. He held up pretty well for an old guy.

Small children have a way of making us look at common things in a new way. Talia, for instance, is fascinated by anything electronic. The television must stay off most of the time because she won't take her eyes off the screen when it's on. The laptop computer enthralls her the same way, and she thinks it's loads of fun to lunge for the keyboard and make exciting things happen. And if she gets close enough, she tries to taste it.

A tall pile of magazines is a temptation not to be ignored. The stack must be toppled...and tasted. She even had to taste my sweater when I held her in my lap.

So today I'm looking at the television screen, and the computer, a stack of magazines, even my sweater, and wondering what Talia sees that I don't see. Color? Movement? Texture? Or is everything just a potential teething ring? After all, we did catch her chewing on the coffee table.

There's a lesson here, of course. As writers we need to stay alert to our surroundings, do things that make us see everyday items in a new way. We tend to take the same route to the grocery store, order the same meal at a frequently visited restaurant, wear the same clothes on Sunday, follow an orderly routine first thing in the morning, or before going to bed.

What happens if we change it up a bit? Take the long way around when we drive to the store and pay attention to what we see along the way? Go to that favorite restaurant, but order something we've never ordered before and savor every bite?

Forcing ourselves to look at ordinary things in new ways can help us write better descriptions. What do you see when you look at your laptop? What do you think Talia sees when she's staring at the television? And have you tasted a sweater lately? Or a book?

11 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This is a great point, Patricia. And hard for me since I like sticking to my routine. Good reminder that, by shaking things up a little, we can discover lots of material for our books.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Mason Canyon said...

It's great that children can make us look at life in a whole new way. I just wish I had some of their energy. Enjoy your day.

carolynyalin said...

I loved my baby carrier. I often wonder what J sees - she points to something in the air and I try to figure it out. Does she see something I don't?

Carol Kilgore said...

I wonder what my blue heeler sees. He watches the PC and Mac commercials. And likes to taste our rugs and furniture.

Karen Walker said...

I love love love this post. I will try to spend the rest of the day looking at the world thru different eyes? Thanks.
Karen

Alan Orloff said...

HMMM. Electronicszzzzz...

Actually, I thought about tasting my WIP the other day, but it smelled too bad...

Kids sure will make you look at things differently. And usually in a good way!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I can't stand to take the same old route day after day. I need to shake things up. Somebody told me that it's because I'm a Virgo, that the need for change of scene is a Virgo trait. I don't know if that's the case or I'm just a restless soul, but I'll say this, I agree with you 100 percent. We get in a rut in life and we can get in a rut with out writing as well. I baby sat my six month old granddaughter yesterday, and I'm about to start baby sittting her today, she sure does LOOK at everything. Outside the birds and the wind were enthralling her. Great post.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I love the thought of the blue heeler watching the PC and Mac commercials. Don't you wonder what he's thinking?

Thanks to all of you for dropping by today -- I'm busy having more of this fun (and sadly looking forward to another travel day tomorrow), but will be back online again later this evening. Hope you're all having a great day. I am.

Kerrie said...

Excellent reminder. Lately I have started knitting again. What I notice when I go to buy yarn is I pay attention to more than the color, like Talia, I have to see how it feels (I don't put it in my mouth though). I love soft yarn and won't by anything else.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Being alert and observing is a key to inventiveness and originality in writing, I think.

Galen

Jeanie said...

A great reminder about we look at our world. I find it interesting that even in my own house when I get down on the floor with one of my grand kids I see things I don't usually notice, and I don't just mean dust bunnies.