Overheard at the Kroger deli last week:
"I. do. not. have. time to worry about something like that. You will earn your-self an ulcer if you think that far ahead."
Deli Lady was cutting sandwich meat for me, and her speech matched the cadence of the machine she used to slice my Ovengold Turkey. She was talking to a Timid Soul who had been stocking potato salad. I don't know what Timid Soul had been concerned about.
I do know that if I had a lapfull of trouble, I might visit Deli Lady and tell her about it while she cut my sandwich meat. Even if it took ten pounds of Blazing Buffalo, the conversation would be well worth it. She had one of those warm, sensible faces that suggested she would listen well and quickly dispatch any nonsense she encountered.
But I digress.
The point is, I think listening (even eavesdropping) is a lost art. Oh, the things you hear when you sit in a crowded place with your earbuds in- and the volume off.
Or you can just walk around and make a point of listening.
"I've lost 20 pounds. But the best part is, my man LOVES it!"
~ That was a grocery store, too.
"Her art is ... amazing. She uses eggbeaters and ink."
~ While waiting tables. (I cannot begin to communicate the mixture of reverence and pretension in the speaker's tone.)
"I told that bartender she sucked at her job and she should just quit if she always had an attitude like that. You know I always say what I think. Rob just laughed. He's used to me."
~ Spoken by a young women with matching attitude. Loudly. Into her cell phone. As the plane was boarding. This former server wanted to jump a few rows and suggest several reasons why said bartender might have had a poor attitude.
I could go on and on. I found the Slushbusters by eavesdropping on Michelle and Steph talking at an SCBWI meeting. At writing conferences, I stay on the edges of the folks that mob the agents/ editors/ authors. I can't think of an intelligent question to save my soul. So I let other (better) people do it for me.
Besides, as a writer, I need to listen. I already think far too much about:
1) the words in my head
2) how to get them on paper,
3) how many words I put on paper, and
4) were the words any good?
And then you add blogging to the mix? Good grief, it's way too easy to pay attention to moi (as Miss Piggy would say).
Listening demands that I take a vacation from myself. It reminds me that each person I see has their own story. (Even if it involves eggbeaters.) And it often helps with that whole putting words on paper/computer screen that we writers think so much about.
So I'd love to know: What have you heard? Do you ever use what you hear in your writing?
I'm all ears.