Saturday, October 15, 2011

Turning The Mundane Into A Masterpiece

We all find ourselves in those moments in life where we are forced to endure the mundane: standing in line at the bank, grocery shopping, waiting for our kids in the pickup lane at school, etc. But these moments can actually be fantastic opportunities to sharpen those descriptive writing skills and save you from slipping into a coma.

For example: Today, I am boarding a giant yellow school bus filled with 119 marching band kids and parent chaperones, weaving our way through perpetual Los Angeles traffic to a high school nearly two hours away. There they will perform their first competition of the year. The bus ride is usually hot, slow and relatively boring (unless you have an iPod loaded with good tunes or another adult to sit and chat with), but it's also an amazing opportunity to "observe." For most of us, it's been a long time since we've ridden a school bus, but our characters often do. What does it feel like as it bumps up and down on the highway? What do the seats look like? Rips? Gum stuck to the floor? Sticky green vinyl? What does it sound like? What does it feel like as the windows open and your hair gets whipped about? And, grosser but true, what does it smell like? You will no doubt overhear snippets of conversation. What are they talking about? What are the kids doing as they travel? Playing on portable gaming systems? Watching movies on iPads? Texting? Talking? Is it hot? Cold? You get where I'm going....

And at the destination, there's a lot of hurry-up-and-wait in the marching band world. (Hey, kinda like publishing!) What a great chance to people watch! Sit with a notebook and pen and pick 5 random people and describe them fully, head to toe. Describe their clothes, their hair, their complexion, their vocal tone or dialect, their energy level (overzealous band parent or bored sibling that's been dragged along for the ride), what they eat. Look around and describe everything you see. The field, the way the sun looks as it is in the sky at different points of the day and how that affects your comfort in sitting there, what food options are available to you, etc.

And on the ride home, how does your body feel? Are you tired? Energized? How do those bus seats feel on your back now?

You can apply this to every mundane situation there is, because these are all situations we encounter in our day-to-day lives. They can otherwise be boring to read about, but rich description, or something funny or unique you can add as a spike, can make the mundane a masterpiece. Try it! At the minimum, you won't be bored because you'll be writing!

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