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I avoid funerals like the plague. When I was younger, I promised that I would never attend one, not even my own. Anyone who dared to open the casket at my funeral would be in for a shock, as I would not be there.
Unfortunately, circumstances have forced me to adjust my perspective on this. I still hate attending funerals, but I have had to attend a few especially in the last couple of years. A close family friend, a wonderful lady who was a surrogate mother to me in my formative years passed away a few weeks ago. I went to the funeral, but this time I had a plan. I would attend, but I would survive the onslaught of emotions by giving myself the role of an observer. I would take notes on how things were done and people’s behavior, mental notes that could be of use to me if I ever had to write a funeral scene. My intention of course was not to be disrespectful. This was about survival.
It occurred to me then that, by choosing writing as a profession, I have chosen a job where I am on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Many writers have a particular time of day when they write. Others have a writing target, a few lines or pages each day. Sometimes we meet the target, other times we don’t, but either way, we work. Every experience during our day, no matter how trivial is potential fodder for our next award winning novel. The interaction of our family at the dinner table may make for a more realistic scene description; a change in your neighbour’s routine may be inspiration for a story on domestic violence or murder. For me, watching my son enter a tunnel-like room at Brimstone Hill got me thinking of an adventure at this fortress.
Do you often find yourself walking through life as an observer, tucking away notes in the back of your mind for possible future use?
(Originally appeared at Novel Spaces on August 12, 2010)