Too Busy Observing?

Last night, a reader of my first two novels said something about them that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since:  “Well observed.”  He then explained what he meant. 

“When I was in high school,” he said, “my art teacher said that about of one of my drawings.  I asked what that meant, and the teacher said, ‘It expresses reality.  You pay close attention to things, and it shows in your work.’  I’ve never forgotten that compliment.  Dave, both of your books are so realistic about how people really are.”

I was moved.  Even if I put my characters in a very obvious fantasy situation, as I did in Von Lagerhaus, or I feature a character whose decisions defy “common sense” as in See John Play, I want my observations about people to ring true.

I once read a quote – it might have been in Sol Stein’s classic “On Writing,” a must-read for any aspiring author.  Or possibly, it was Steve Almond.  It went something like this:  “If you’re a writer, you write every waking moment.  You never stop observing, thinking, composing, editing.  All of life is story, and you are always thinking about how to tell it.”

Last July, I did something most every writer must do – particularly those like me with school-aged kids:  I got a job.  A demanding one.  I’ve often had to deal with situations that are way bigger than me.  I’ve often had to deal with people at their very worst – and sometimes, that’s included me.  During this period, I’ve felt sorry for myself more than my share because I just don’t have the time or energy to create the next story.

Then last night, this guy says something about my books that has been jolting me ever since.

I know some people who call themselves observers of life.  They’re able to spend a fair amount of time on the sidelines, watching others dive into the mud and get dirty.  There may be some value in that; I don’t sit in judgment.

But maybe some kinds of observations can only come from diving into the mud and getting dirty.  Perhaps, stories are best sharpened through the lens of difficult experience.  After all, for those of us who like military history, what more compelling read than a well-told account from the pens of the soldiers who fought the battles?

I know a man who lived through a huge dose of difficulty as an undercover detective.  It’s left its mark on him.  Can he ever write about the struggle between good and evil in our cities – and the struggle within a man.

Maybe I should count this season of my own professional striving and struggle – time away from the pen – as a literary blessing.

5 thoughts on “Too Busy Observing?

  1. http://www./ says:

    joker would love to wear this! well perhaps not… i’m with the plan to have it meet with disaster. or how about saying it will do her untold psychological damage to realise that all that makes you a santa is wearing this sort of suit?

  2. http://www./ says:

    sier:Vårkåt Isabell fenget meg fra første lytt. Jeg gleder meg sinnsykt til skivene kommer ut i helhet. Imellomtia er jeg nesten daglig inne på sia her for å høre på de sangene her. Naboklager har jeg ikke hørt høyt nok på anlegget til å mene for mye om, men headsettet var ihverfall imponert.

  3. im not in fact. sure, having the ability to play music purely from ear is an incerdibly useful skill, and im not denying it is one thousand times better than reading. but i were to sit you down in a full band right now, put some music in front of your face and say “play this with the band” what would you do? im not trying to start an internet argument with you, i have better things to do than that. im just saying: knowledge is power

  4. Dotty says:

    пишет:Я получил первую выплату. Продолжаю работать с Ð.¹¿Â°Ã‘€Ñ‚неркоÐÂÃÂДоход за 30 дней: 9 667,25р. Примерно так выходитVN:F [1.9.21_1169]Рейтинг: 0 (оценок: 0)

  5. Andrea P. says:

    What a nice affirmation, Dave. Thanks for sharing! We miss you in the writer’s group, too. I hope you come back soon!
    – Andrea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *