I had a writer's imagination long before I had a clue I could write, before I ever thought I might one day write a book. I had imaginary conversations with people real and fictional, and wondered if anyone I knew did the same thing. I was pretty sure it wasn't normal, but I was loathe to give up the practice. Then, when I began to write, I felt like a part of me had clicked into place and, finally, there was a valid outlet for all the imaginary things that went on inside my head. It seems I was "in the writing frame of mind" that Debbie wrote about before I knew there was such a thing.
I've always been a people watcher. I was the quiet one in the class or the crowd, soaking in the details of everyone around me. For a long time I thought it was the artist in me paying attention to detail -- and it was. For years I drew, then painted, and people were always my subjects. But I wanted their faces to say something to me. (Here's a typical drawing from way back when.) But my people watching was so much more than the active eye of an artist. It was learning the intricacies of characterization; the multi-faceted layers of story. It was growing into the realization that "story" is a way to communicate what's important to me (as did my artwork), hopefully in an intertaining way -- unlike the novel I'm currently reading, which is nothing more than a treatise on the author's pet issues. Notice the plural form of the noun? In fact, it reads like a checklist of what's near and dear to her heart (please forgive the cliche). It's as if she fashioned a garment for the sole purpose of having a framework on which to attach her favorite sequins. It is, in fact, a popular novel, but not with me, even though this is an author whose other books I've loved.
That's not what I mean by writing about what's on my heart.
The posts this week, as well as the comments -- we learn from you too! -- reminded me that paying attention to the world around us involves all the senses. That was driven home on Wednesday as I stood waiting for my take-out order at Panera Bread. (If you've never had their Frontega Chicken Sandwich, you must!) An elderly couple crossed my path on their way to a table, and the first thing that I took note of was the woman's red hair -- the color of which cannot be found in nature. I was also aware that the stark color didn't go with the loose folds of powdered skin that hung from her face, or the stoop of her shoulders, or the arch-support shoes she shuffled in. But again, people watching doesn't stop with the eye. And in this case it also involved my nose, as they passed with a conflicting array of scents: perm solution, spray starch, and perfume that hasn't been advertised in glamour magazines in decades. Those smells were definitely at odds with the fragrance of freshly-baked bread and homemade soup that filled the eatery, but they took top billing in the space I occupied for a good ten seconds or more.
I also love catching snippets of conversation when I'm in a public place. They're such great springboards for characters and scenes. Even things my family and friends say find their way into my novels. Those who know me well, know there's nothing sacred, nothing "off the record." Ever.
So what about you? When did you know you were meant to write, and what dimensions has that added to the person deep inside you? The one no one knows but you.