{discover.play.build.} idiosyncrasies


 noun \ˌi-dē-ə-ˈsiŋ-krə-sē\

plural id·i·o·syn·cra·sies

Definition of IDIOSYNCRASY

a : a peculiarity of constitution or temperament : an individualizing characteristic or qualityb : individual hypersensitiveness (as to a drug or food)
: characteristic peculiarity (as of temperament); broadly :eccentricity

Keeping a writer’s notebook has helped me to notice the details surrounding me. I like capturing tiny details that become significant in crafting the story or building the character. In order to do this, I must be aware of the world around me.

Just now, as I was waiting for water to boil for my tea, I looked out the kitchen window and noticed the sky. I thought: Wow, that’s a crazy color for the sky. This kind of thought passes through our heads everyday. The difference between writers and everyone else is writers pause and notice. I lingered at the window and asked myself: How would I describe this sky in my notebook? What words would I use? How would a character feel if surrounded by this sky? Before writing this blog post, I took a few minutes to jot a list in my notebook: steel; thick; vast; grey; confused — blue and pink and bright sunrise on one side, grey and dark and omniscient on the other; melancholy; lonely; small in a big world.

I watch  people too. And not just for entertainment, but for their idiosyncrasies. I watching for the actions that define them. I looking for the way their words and actions work together to tell me something about the person. I’m paying attention to the clues they give me that lead me to inferring their emotions.

Last night I was watching a little league game. Going into the fourth inning, the team on the field was ahead 9 to 0. The first three batters got on base, the fourth came up and hit a grand slam. I watched the catcher stomp his foot, throw his mitt, and whine to the team. The next batter up hit a triple. Now the third baseman, short stop, and left fielder join the catcher in the charade of foot stomping, mitt throwing, and whining. I was surprised at their behavior.

So I started paying closer attention. The next batter hit a home run. As the score sat at 9 – 6, the entire team on the field showed their disgust. Everyone. No kidding. Before writing, I used to let these things pass by, thinking, Hmmm, that was interesting. Now I replay it in my mind and hold on to it until I can get to my writer’s notebook. I jot down the interesting parts. I write about the different ways a baseball player can show disgust on the field. I work my way to an understanding of how the catcher influences the team. And I write about the hitting team and how their emotions shifted — suddenly they were in the game; suddenly they had a chance to win. The energy was electric.

{discover. play. build.}
Finding defining traits in characters and places ins’t magic. Instead, it is about slowing down a little to notice the world unfolding all around us. It’s about smelling something and saying to the people around you: how would you describe that smell? (And if you’re really lucky, a child under the age of six will be with you, because they always have a great way of looking at the world.) Today look for the idiosyncrasies around you and find the time to jot them in your notebook. I can’t wait to see what you {discover.play.build.} with your words.

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  1. So, after your description of the players' actions, I'm wondering what the coaches were doing? You've already got me interested by the details you showed! Thanks for the nudge to put the observations down.

  2. Ah….I love this word! It's what gives character to so much in our lives, isn't it? I was thinking about observing the particulars today, too – in fact I blogged about Jane Kenyon's fantastic ability to do just this, in a most poetic way, today. My afternoon treat will be to read through “Otherwise and Collected Poems” … I can't wait!

  3. Love, LOVE, love this post. I delight in capturing the world around me with words and you perfectly painted a picture of what that looks like. Thank you for reminding me that my different way of seeing things is good.