Most of my reflection time is spent in the solitude of my home study. But occasionally, I venture into the world of people for a cuppa’ Joe. Accompanied by my journal, paper and pen to write ideas or work on another blog post.
I am grateful we can meet in public again, sit in outdoor cafes or lounge among other pilgrims inside a coffee shop.
Observation is a necessary gift for writers.
We learn how to build characters by watching the people around us. We listen to dialogue and underscore accents. We detect smells and touch by the fabrics people wear.
An older couple sits quietly at a round table, slowly chewing croissants without talking or even looking at one another.
Years of marriage enrich the silence of the moment. What is there to talk about after so many meals together?
Maybe these fluffy croissants are their one treat for the week or the month — until the next Social Security check revives their bank balance.
A woman after my own heart reads alone, occasionally sipping her coffee. Obviously engrossed in her book, she seems lost in the words. An occasional grin spreads one side of her mouth. Or a mental struggle as the little “eleven” becomes a crease between her eyebrows.
Is she learning something new, researching for a college class or trying to escape some chaos in her life by entering into a fictional world?
Two women chat near me, slathering cream cheese on their bagels. One talks with a shrill timber. The other is the listener.
If I eavesdrop carefully, I learn about the toddler’s attempts at potty training, how the hubby works hard but does not care about the fatigue of this young mommy, how the oven needs cleaning but who really cares.
Do they suspect I intrude on their privacy? Do they see I am taking notes for my next character sketch? Probably not. Their goal is to share their hearts with each other, to find another soul who empathizes.
Another table fills with businessmen, their Mac books opened to spread sheets and planners — terse statements about sales and marketing. They remind me of Nate, the antagonist in No Visible Scars and how he traded his marriage for his ambition.
The employees of this restaurant assemble salads, soups and steel cut oats to fulfill requests. Working hard yet often rendered invisible. Each customer is captured only by his own story, with his own reason for spending the morning at Panera.
I feel gratitude for this place and for the freedom to sit and observe. Yet I am also aware of the God who cares for each person’s story — the Divine One who designed destinies before the foundation of the world. He who wants desperately for each person in this place to know how much he loves them.
Then the writer in me kicks in, and I play the “What if” game.
What if the older gentleman is hiding a fortune in stolen coins? What if his wife is really his pastor and has no idea about his hidden sin? What if the two women are planning a getaway, another Thelma and Louise adventure?
Away I travel into the world of creative thought, fashioning a new storyline for each character. The gift of observation teaches us how to weave story ideas together. It also brings us to a place of wonder at the uniqueness of each individual — the design for each life.
Before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 2 reminds us, God structured these plans. Yet he gave us the freedom to choose Plan B or C. Graciously, he comes alongside us to protect or comfort when we face the consequences of those choices.
My creative gift mingles with the God-breathed creations around me. Another day of writing. Another moment in time.
Then hope warms my soul as I gather my observations and drive home.
©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
Have you read it yet – my release for this month? The Year of my Redemption is on Amazon, Kindle and Goodreads.