Friday night as I rushed to catch the train home, I noticed others scurrying about more madly than me. The short, but cute, stubble-faced guy heading to the Amtrak ticket window as the speakers overhead crackled an “All aboard.” The little old lady, barely 4’8”, dodging and weaving between the people in the crowd, her bob of silver hair bouncing beneath her shocking pink beret. A quick swerve around the corner by the Krispy Kreme and she was almost gone, but the sweet smells of just fried dough lingered in her place while visions of sugar glazed donuts tempted me as they glimmered beneath the lights in the display case.
As the last bit of pink beret faded from sight, I thought, “It’s Friday night. Maybe she has a hot date.”
But in New York City, where an escalator just means you can walk up the stairs even faster, rushing to somewhere is just a way of life. Not that NYC is so different from many other places. As a whole, our way of life seems to be rush, rush, rush.
We’re so busy rushing to somewhere that we’ve lost our to ability to experience the where we are, much less remember the where we’ve been sometimes.
It’s the old stop and smell the roses adage.
As a writer, you almost have to stop and smell the roses a great deal of the time because one of the greatest tools a writer can have is her power of observation. The ability to remember the details of people, places and things. It’s those little details that breathe life into our characters and stories.
Next time, stop and think about the scene that you are going to write. Think about the smells in the air. The feel of the location and the noises (or lack of noises) that surround you. What do you see as you stand there, experiencing the where you are? Do you taste anything as you stand there? Where had you been before and was it different?
The five senses, or as many of them as you can possibly include, need to be present in that scene to bring it alive for readers. When you enhance the descriptions by infusing them with your personal observations, it brings a scene to life in a way that can’t be accomplished just by research.
If you’re a writer, stop rushing to somewhere and take the time to experience what’s around you.
For everyone else, stop and smell the roses anyway! Time is too short to always be rushing to somewhere without savoring the here and now.
P.S. – Do you think that little old lady in the pink beret will ever make into a story?