through Friday I follow the same commute to work. I’ve done it for nearly nine years. Yet, occasionally when I pull into my
unassigned but clearly designated parking spot, I wonder briefly about my
sanity. Shockingly this concern
doesn’t stem from the fact that I’ve spent almost a decade in seventh grade–a
school year most of us have worked very hard to block out of our memories. Instead, my worry is sparked on those
mornings when I can’t clearly recall one song I heard on the radio or one stoplight
at which I paused–and I did, like, totally pause. When the engine turns off, I’m suddenly aware that I spent
the last twenty minutes lost in my thoughts, which for me usually means
imagining some scene from my latest story or daydreaming about magically
bumping into Mr. Right at the meat counter. (The meat counter,
really, Lauren? Did I mention I’ve
spent too long working with seventh graders?)
past the dangers of driving with one’s head in the clouds, it’s not necessarily
a bad thing to take the time to tune out the world and listen to your own
musings for a while. It’s a safe
way to vent frustrations, play out fantasies, or prepare for unpleasant
situations. Most of my ideas for
writing also come from letting my mind wander. In fact, when I’m stuck with a scene or can’t think of a
topic to blog about for the week, I usually throw on my sneakers and headphones
and pound the pavement for a few miles.
The monotony of my short stride and overused playlists will eventually
force my easily bored brain to come up with something interesting. I think as a writer and someone who has
always been a little odd and a little spacey, I can get away with this.
my alter ego–the responsible, driven educator and homeowner–can’t function well
in la-la land. Those little
buggers at school actually need attention, as do the litter box, the laundry
pile, and the growing collection of dirty dishes in the sink. It’s easy to forget that while I’m
escaping reality, reality isn’t going anywhere. And, frankly, I wouldn’t want it to. Living the life I have, as opposed to
living in the worlds I create, is how I learned to be good at the things I’m
good at most days–teaching and writing.
with people and writing about people kind of require you to know a little about
people. Growing up, I was trained
by the masters in the arts of observance and loquaciousness. Yup, Dad and Gram never missed a trick
and could, and often did, strike up conversations with strangers in the grocery
store. Being young and
impressionable, I followed their lead.
I lurked in the dining room or upstairs hallway to listen in to every
phone conversation my mother ever had.
I pretended to fall asleep on Gram’s lap at holidays to catch snippets
of “grown up” conversation.
And I was never one for headphones–how can you eavesdrop with your ears
covered? So I probably never
grasped the concepts of MYOB or “Don’t talk to strangers,” but I
developed a curiosity about and comfort with people that have served me well,
both in my career and in my passion.
that I’m older I sometimes want to escape those “grown up”
conversations and wish I truly could nap on Gram’s lap a few hours each
afternoon. But living in my head
not only keeps me up at night, it also keeps me from being present for some of
the best opportunities to people watch, to observe, and to notice the nuances
that will help me understand a student who baffles me or create a character to
whom my readers can relate. So
I’m swearing off headphones at the grocery store and nixing writing or revising
during study halls. Beware
unsuspecting shoppers and unrestrained talkers: you have just returned to being
fodder for my newest novel.