Here’s a quick quiz: Which of these pictures is a writer’s office?
You guessed it. All of them are. The first is the office of writer Francesca Simon, from a great series in The Guardian called “Writers’ Rooms.” One of the most important things to have as a writer is a place that provides some physical and mental space to write. While I can’t afford an actual office, I am lucky enough to live within a mile of my favorite coffee shop in town, and on days when a coffee shop doesn’t appeal, I drive straight past it and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, where my fully charged laptop and I sometimes enjoy a scenic overlook.
Somehow, my writing does not all end up about mountains and coffee shops. One thing about being a writer is that you are always supposed to be a writer, even when you are not writing. No matter where the writing process takes place, the ideas stem from real-life observations and experiences. I am currently working at a restaurant at the largest tourist attraction in the region – a gold mine for quirky character ideas. Yet when I’m working, my mind is focused on clearing tables and ensuring that tartar sauce accompanies every order of fish.
At work, I will never have the time or space to let my mind process and explore ideas, or even to invent intricate background stories on the patrons. But I spend so much time there and encounter such a wide variety of people that I would not want the opportunity to “write” to go to waste. I came up with a people-watching checklist in the hopes that it will help me to focus on gaining some brief insights without forgetting any essential condiments. If it does not improve my multi-tasking writer skills, at least it will make work more fun.
1. An idiosyncratic gesture.
2. An unusual physical feature.
3. A unique slang or catchphrase.
4. An interesting bit of overheard conversation.
5. A broken stereotype.
I’m starting small to test the waters, but please feel free to add!