This post was originally written December 17, 2013. Since I'm still trying to work on my NaNoWriMo word count, I'm rerunning it today. Check out my blog next week when fellow Oak Tree Press author, John M. Wills, will be joining me on the Back Deck to talk about his latest book, "The Storm"!
Most people believe that writing is a completely solitary endeavor. They picture a writer in a lonely garret, with an oil lamp for companionship, and their lofty thoughts being turned into words by their quill pens on parchment in peaceful silence.
Not even close.
As the years have gone by, I realize that what makes us writers is the way we see the world around us... and that includes the people that inhabit it. There's only so much you can learn, however, from just sitting on a park bench (or mall bench) and watching people go by... or the less-socially-acceptable eavesdropping on people in restaurants. That is where having a "real" job comes in handy. The normally reclusive writer is "forced" to interact with people which, under usual circumstances, the writer wouldn't associate with.
Lest anyone think I'm being insulting, let me elaborate. Most of the people we meet at work would probably never answer a personal ad to be our friends. They are people who are very different from the people with whom we would choose to associate--different interests, different lifestyles, different ways of thinking. Even different age groups. Come on... how many 40+ year olds would normally "hang out" with 20-somethings (that aren't their children?) And vice versa?
Co-workers add so much to our lives. Some good, some bad. To a writer, this helps enormously in creating compelling and believable characters. Not only can you actually learn how different people act, speak, and think, you also gain the valuable insight on how you--and others--react to their actions, words, and thoughts. Sometimes you may disagree, in principle, with your co-workers but because you have been interacting with them on a regular basis and know their kids' or siblings' names, their favorite foods and TV shows, the problems they have with their in-laws or best friends, you are able to look beyond their views to the person voicing them and the story behind what makes them view things that way.
These people are our links to the world outside of ourselves and the world we create on paper. A world inhabited only by people just like ourselves, or worse, a world populated with the people we THINK are out there, is flat and colorless. When we know who those "other" people really are, our stories become richer... and so do we. We shouldn't be afraid to get to know people who, at first glance, are not "compatible" with us. We all feel hurt, pain, betrayal, hope, joy, exultation, contentment, insecurity, satisfaction, and love. Examining how other people experience those emotions helps us grow as writers and as people.
I am grateful for the co-workers who have touched my life, become friends, become a part of me. No, I'm not using you for characters, but I am using you to make the characters I create real, characters that I and, hopefully, readers care about.