Watch and imagine


Practice! Musicians and athletes do it. Writers don’t often admit it, but we do, too, though maybe not as persistently as we could. I start every day with my notebook and write at least three pages, but those pages can be less than useful if I get trapped in my own reality. I need to widen my scope, to write about what the world offers beyond my life, my familiar environment, my intentions. I need to get out of my own way.

To do this I write in a milieu where other people come and go. Maybe I’m in a coffee shop changing other people into characters. Those two men talking about real estate, what might they be like? Are they successful or scared silly over the market? This morning a girl about seven, her mother, and her grandmother are seated nearby in the coffee shop at the library. The child has one book and is excited about it. The mom wanders away and comes back with beverages for the child and grandmother. They all focus on the book, and I wish I knew what has captured them. Maybe the book is about a pet goat, or it’s about taking the child for her first plane ride. Whichever I choose is up to me. They have no idea that I will create a life that only vaguely resembles their experiences. My reward is that for a while I’ve left my own life and created one that stretches my imagination. And that’s practice as good as playing scales on a piano or shooting hoops.


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