Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What I learned at the Polls

For a fiction writer, I don't pay much attention to what goes on in my own backyard. Today I served as a poll worker for the first time. No major races going on so attendance was down. I had plenty of time to chat with the other poll workers.

I have lived in this precinct for 16 years--enough time one would think--to learn a little something about one's neighbors. Wrong! I got enough juicy material today to fill more volumes than I will ever have time to write. Which leaves me to wonder, where have I been for the last 16 years? How has all this great dirt gotten past me? Am I not paying attention at all?

I'm a writer, for crying out loud. I'm supposed to be observant. I should notice the little things the non-writing public overlooks. That's what sets writers apart from the rest of the world. We take those little nuances and run with them. Instead I discovered I need to get out of my house once in a while.

I'm not suggesting I write an expose on my neighbors, but it looks like I'm the most clueless person in the county. I have always prided myself on my insatiable curiosity--okay, I'll admit it, I'm nosy. Apparently not nosy enough. I think I need to leave my house more often. I need to write down all the little stories and 20-year-old rumors and scandals I heard today and file them away. The next time I have writer's block or am not sure which direction to take a plot, I can pull out one of those scenarios and see if it fits into the storyline.

To all the writers out there, leave your house now and then. Take time to chat over the back fence with a neighbor as it were. Pay attention to your local politics. It might just be more exciting than any of the mudslinging in Washington.

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