I had the best afternoon imaginable yesterday. I did nothing except play with my six-month-old granddaughter and tag along on a long stroll around a small lake called Jamaica Pond with my hubby and our daughter and baby Talia. Hubby (now known as Grandpa) was all strapped up with the baby carrier. He held up pretty well for an old guy.
Small children have a way of making us look at common things in a new way. Talia, for instance, is fascinated by anything electronic. The television must stay off most of the time because she won’t take her eyes off the screen when it’s on. The laptop computer enthralls her the same way, and she thinks it’s loads of fun to lunge for the keyboard and make exciting things happen. And if she gets close enough, she tries to taste it.
A tall pile of magazines is a temptation not to be ignored. The stack must be toppled…and tasted. She even had to taste my sweater when I held her in my lap.
So today I’m looking at the television screen, and the computer, a stack of magazines, even my sweater, and wondering what Talia sees that I don’t see. Color? Movement? Texture? Or is everything just a potential teething ring? After all, we did catch her chewing on the coffee table.
There’s a lesson here, of course. As writers we need to stay alert to our surroundings, do things that make us see everyday items in a new way. We tend to take the same route to the grocery store, order the same meal at a frequently visited restaurant, wear the same clothes on Sunday, follow an orderly routine first thing in the morning, or before going to bed.
What happens if we change it up a bit? Take the long way around when we drive to the store and pay attention to what we see along the way? Go to that favorite restaurant, but order something we’ve never ordered before and savor every bite?
Forcing ourselves to look at ordinary things in new ways can help us write better descriptions. What do you see when you look at your laptop? What do you think Talia sees when she’s staring at the television? And have you tasted a sweater lately? Or a book?