Part of me always feels guilty.
The writer in me is always watching, always observing, always taking notes. One year, a friend presented me with a t-shirt that said: Careful or You’ll End Up in My Novel. She thought it was funny. I know that it’s true.
There is a vast supply of information out there, presented to us everyday, free of charge–on the bus, in the grocery, on the freeway, in the workplace–and all we writerly-types have to do is watch, observe, note.
So, part of me always feels guilty. Especially at times when my inner amanuensis probably wouldn’t be welcome.
The problem is, I can’t turn it off. Sure, there are times when I’m distinctly unobservant (ask my wife!) and have to be struck over the head with a fact in order for it to register, but that’s usually due to my preoccupation with something else. If I’m present, and paying attention, part of me is watching, observing, taking note.
So, what’s a writerly-type to do when, say, I’m in the middle of a grieving family drama, or engaged in a full-bore argument. I am unable to not observe reactions to bad news, to pain, to shock. At these times I feel like both a participant and a voyeur; I’m a stealth paparazzi, capturing all of those around me in their most vulnerable and private moments, saving those stolen images and impressions for publication.
Of course, the published work isn’t a portrait of any one person; it’s an amalgam. But that character, that bald spot, that expression on their face, that distinctive gait, that specific turn of phrase that I make them utter…it’s someone I’ve seen, observed, and noted.
So, blanket apologies to you all. I will do my best to make you unrecognizable, even to yourself. Though if I ever meet the friend of my friend, Vincent D’Avignon, I’m going to thank him for the use of his name.