Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What’s Unique about the Writer’s Lens

Adalbert Stifter - Moonrise

I’ve noticed that many people I know view life through a lens.

Some of them use a political lens—they look at everything in relation to politics.

Many use religious lenses.

There are some that use a financial lens: everything boils down in terms of money.

There are egocentric lenses…how everything in life affects them.

There’s even a motherhood lens—how life’s hardships and joys affect their children or the raising of them.

The big thing that seems to set writers apart, to me, is our lens—it’s an observational one.

It doesn’t seem to be a very analytical device… we’re not so much into the why people behave the way they do as watching it happen.

I do know many different kinds of writers and there are some extroverts in the bunch, but I’d say it’s probably 90% introvert to the 10% extrovert that I know.

Most of the writers I know are happy to sit on the edges of a group or gathering and watch the people. We’re less happy being the center of attention—you can’t observe life as well when all eyes are on you. We’re the perfect bystanders.

We don’t mind the quiet.

We can get so caught up in our writing that we don’t feel self-conscious about taking notes or writing in a public place.

This filter provides us with a little distance from other people. This can be a very welcome distance. I can come across a really annoying person, but through the writing lens they come through as complex and different.

And, yes, still a little annoying. But we need those kinds of people in our books, too.

But the biggest thing that stands out to me is the watching and recording that writers do. We’re listening and looking…jotting down names of people and places, unusual situations, people’s personal conflicts. We’re sorting through ideas.

And I think this note-taking is frequently done in a nonjudgmental way—we’re just relating these life observations to readers. We’re the middlemen…we polish up our notes to make them interesting or entertaining, but it’s truth, on paper.

Do you see yourself as an observer?