My favorite time of day for taking walks is in the early evening. Walking through the neighborhood, I love the glimpses I get of other people’s lives as lights come on in their homes. I can see how a living room has been decorated or that one family eats together in the dining room while another eats supper in front of the television. I usually don’t know who I am looking at and I’m not spying or peeking in windows, I’m just walking past.
My voyeurism hasn’t been limited to the visual. I often listen in on other peoples’ conversations when out in public. I will (almost) never inject myself into their conversations, but I listen when others speak.
I also love it when bloggers write about their daily lives. I often see advice from the pundits who say that bloggers shouldn’t do this, it is too boring, or that writers should minimize the details of the day to day when writing about their characters. But I love reading these accounts. I like to get a glimpse into how other people live, the kinds of routines they build their lives around, the rituals they have in place to hold things together.
I hadn’t thought too much about why this fascinates me until, recently. I realized that what I was doing as the observer was collecting information for my writing. It is a natural part of who I am and it isn’t a conscious effort on my part, but everything I see and hear and read gets absorbed into my subconscious and becomes fodder for my stories. I think all writers must do this. We watch and listen and learn about how people live and react to each other. We are the observers, and our writing makes us witnesses to what we have seen and learned about the human condition.