Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Details of a Life

My new route is an old residential neighborhood. The sidewalks are cracked and uneven. The houses are close together. The steps are made of wood and creak under my weight. There are houses so tiny that I don't see how a family could possibly live in them. There are also houses so large that I could imagine several families living inside them. Many of the houses are multifamily dwellings with separate entrances. Many others have a single well kept entrance with the tell-tale signs of an elderly couple whom have probably lived there since they were 20 year old newlyweds- the plastic canvass needlepoint welcome sign, a wreath made out of faded plastic flowers and more obviously, the stone carving which reads “The Smith’s, est 1942."

I believe you can tell a lot about a family just by looking at the entrance to their house. One has a large water bowl for a dog to the right of the door. Another has a pair of muddy motocross boots on the sidewalk. The grass is always cut perfectly at one while the neighbors haven’t mowed for weeks. There are three cats staring at me from the back of a couch in one and several little dogs barking at the next. Some have the signs stating that the place is protected by a security system while others leave the front door wide open.

It would be very easy to walk across their lawns and toss papers toward the direction of the door without another thought. My writers’ eye however takes the time to notice the different things that make each house a home for its inhabitants. Every detail is important to someone sleeping inside, and making them real in my mind makes me care more about doing a good job for them. I’m more apt to bag the paper on a wet day if the customer is a person rather than just a welcome mat. I can picture someone shuffling past the muddy boots to sit on the glider with a cup of coffee to read the morning edition. I can picture Mrs. Smith being grateful that I place the paper in the mailbox so she doesn’t have to bend over to scoop up the paper.

Writing is just as much about observing details as it is about sitting down and putting pen to paper. Take your time. Look around. Every moment is research and discovery for the wonderful tales we weave.

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