As we mature, people tend to surround themselves with mirror images. Career, family, school, our social media trends, and outside activities create a homogenous lifestyle. As a writer that's both instructive and deadly. Instructive, if we keep our senses attuned like John Updike, in understanding at a deeper level what is happening around us, capturing nuances and subtleties that others outside our circle might miss. It is also deadly in that our world gets isolated and the process of like-think begins. People with similar values, beliefs, and actions glued together. For a writer, like-think is deadly. No matter what lifestyle we live in, we are a minority and slowly lose our sense of other lifestyles. Save us Chuck Palahniuk.
I'm too old, settled, and not brave enough to live life on the edge--sleeping under railroad bridges, drinking myself into a stupor, or bitch-slapping some puny guy I picked up in a bar only realize that she's a he and only after the $20 bill in my wallet. That's why I go to Writing School.
I watch Maury Povich, COPS, Judge Judy, and sadly, Jerry Springer, when doing brain-idling chores like folding laundry, cleaning, or cutting caramel wrappers. "Who are these people, Maury?" You may prove whether or not he's the father, but the children of these louts don't stand a chance based on the sad overall behavior they put on for 10 million viewers for a few guest bucks. COPS is instructive for both the idealized cop and the irrationality of the criminal mind. "I don't have no dope," says the guy with a joint tucked behind his ear. Maybe the double negative gave him away. "You’re an idiot," screams Judge Judy to someone who thought that wrecking a car got them out of paying for their loan. And still believes it! And Springer proves that just when you thought life couldn't be more weird, out pops the mom who abandoned you to an alcoholic father, and she's now a transsexual who's there to tell you that your wife is really your sister with whom your mom's been having an affair.
It's Writing School. Exposure to characters I have a hard time dreaming up. But now I know they are real and necessary if my books want to dip a toe into some realities that my like-think readers might not have been exposed to and might feel a bit uncomfortable being around. Where is your personal Writing School.