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01/18/2010

Am I Writing Now?

I'm sitting in a restaurant, a book open on the table in front of me. Around me the clatter of silverware against crockery punctuates the soft rumble of voices. In the booth behind me a mother and daughter discuss plans for a nursery. Across the way, the rumble breaks out into laughter and everyone in the the room looks toward the sound and smiles. Before my eyes drop back to the page, I watch the hostess in deep conversation with a busboy. The hostess isn't smiling, the busboy is grinning and ducks into the back unrepentant. The hostess turns smiling to a new customer as they walk in, but the frown remains in her eyes. The businessman with his back to me in the booth on my other side, is having a loud conversation on his cell phone. He's pompous, and arrogant and I feel sorry for his latest customer and check automatically to see that my phone is on silent, then slip it into my purse. I loathe loud cell conversations in restaurants. 

The waiter brings my food, the hostess seats a couple at a table to my left. I savor my meal and eavesdrop unashamedly on their quiet argument. You see, it looks like I'm having a nice meal and enjoying a good book, but actually I'm writing. I won't repeat the argument or the conversations, but I'll use the ambience, the sights and sounds, the annoyance caused by the rude cell phone user. I'll make up a discussion between the hostess and the busboy. I'll tell a joke that will erupt out of the general rumble of conversations.

Another day, I'll sit on the stairs overlooking the beach. I have a big floppy hat, a bottle of water, and a book. My toes are buried in the sand, and I'll lean back and let the sun warm skin and muscles that just recently were bundled in layers against the cold. It looks like I'm just a pasty-white midwesterner enjoying the beach, and I am, but I'm also writing. I'm noting the sound of the crashing waves, the way the light sparkles off the water. The shadows under the pier, the look of the little pile of shells some child has stashed near the foot of the stairs. I make mental notes of the children splashing in the shadows, the squeals of delight as they play tag with a puppy, and the seal-like look of the surfers as they slip through the waves in their wetsuits. I'm enjoying the beach, but I'm also writing.

Every time I see the light dappling through the leaves, or watch a beautiful sunset. When I watch a mother giggle with a child at the park. Any time I see a young man spontaneously drop a kiss on the cheek of his lady, or watch a firetruck race by with lights flashing and sirens whooping, I'm storing away visions for future books. And because I find humor in the absurd, I do the same with misspelled signs, embarrassing moments, (usually my own) or strange and funny encounters with strangers. When you are a writer, you work twenty-four seven. All you do, and all you see is feeding your craft. So if someone catches you staring off into space and asks what you're doing, just say, I'm writing.

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