Monday, 23 June 2014

So, you're a Writer, eh?

Well-meaning people have asked me, "Why do you want to be a writer?"  as if a writer was this poor, unemployed, underfed person, suffering for her art and living in a bare attic room. I must admit I appeared too well-fed and content to look the part of a suffering writer. My other all-time favourite comment, "You're a writer?" exclaimed in such a tone that I'm never sure if it's a total revelation that I can write or that it's inconceivable that I actually do write. Of course this comment has to be justified with a list of what has been written. "What do you write?" is a fair question but if it's not on any Best Seller list, the New York Times or Globe and Mail Top 10  lists, then I'm not a Real Writer. I'll bet you all have a tale or two to tell too. I hadn't always been a writer. I was too busy being a Medical Technologist for 35 years, but when I took early retirement, writing was what I wanted to do.

The other day, I was sipping a cup of Moka-House medium roast and savouring every bite of a Moka-House Blueberry scone--and, not a dainty scone either, but a size large enough to share. Unfortunately, as I people-watched and did my "Character" research, the scone had already been reduced to only a few more bites. And my thoughts jumped from the smart marketing ploy of pairing coffee with baked goods to an elderly man trying to navigate around several baby carriages to reach a vacant table with his coffee and donut. The young Moms were too busy conversing with each other to notice his difficulty in using his cane, balancing his tray and aiming for the nearby table. Quickly, a young man, wearing paint-stained clothes and dramatically visible snake tattoos curling up both muscular arms, leaped from his seat, steadied the frail man and set the tray on his table. Amazingly, the Moms were too focuses on each other to notice that a potential accident had been averted.

At another table, a father and his young son were enjoying their snack when suddenly the 3-year old tossed his empty cookie bag on the floor and proceeded to have a full-blown tantrum. Aha, I thought--either Dad has to get more cookies or he's going to reason with his son. You know--that's when parents would say something like, "That is not acceptable behaviour. Big boys don't throw bags on the floor. Blah, blah, blah." Instead Dad picked his son up, smacked him lightly on the bottom and pointed to the floor. The tantrum stopped in mid-wail. The little boy looked at his Dad and slowly bent to pick up his litter--as well as several napkins tossed under a neighbouring table. Nodding his approval, Dad hugged his son, whispered a few words in his ear and both  walked calmly out of the Food Court. I liked that. This was not child abuse but a well-placed smack that got the child's attention. The little guy knew he was being naughty. I admired the Dad for dealing directly with the tantrum.

A few tables away, there were 8 men, long-time friends and probably retirees, who were all wearing loud, colourful Hawaiian shirts. Their table was a lively one of laughter, a rumble of voices and more laughter. They were enjoying a large box of "Tim Horton" donuts along with their coffee, Finally, one of the men, wearing a shirt peppered with enormous pink hibiscus blooms, stood up to make a toast. Immediately their corner became silent as their heads turned towards an empty chair at the head of their table. In a moment of Food Court silence, the man's words were clearly heard. "This is for you, Benny. We're wearing our Hawaiian shirts and talking about you, remembering all the funny things you did. The guys and I miss you like hell and hope that's not where you ended up, but wherever you are, we hope you're having a Timmy's and a coffee too. Here's to you, Benny!" The clink of coffee mugs and a chorus of voices echoed the toast. It was a very touching moment.

Now, I know you're going to say--wait a sec, what happened to being a writer?

Well, Life is what happens. There is so much drama, comedy and things left to your imagination that happens each and every day. Being at the computer can leave you numb (sat too long) or hungry ('cause nothing is happening)--so taking a long walk or heading out for coffee or meeting with friends--are all potentials for building a story. After all, most stories start with the ordinary that somehow changes to something horrific or extraordinary. It's hard work to keep up the pace and make it believable. It's definitely a challenge to have your believable characters do unbelievable  things. What better place to pick-up characters than at the mall or coffee bars or Laundromats or grocery stores or hardware stores or. . .And the imagination supplies the rest of the story.


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