As I travel around the world, and I have done that a lot, I find myself sitting around in airports, railway stations, bus stations, hotel lobbies, great city plazas and numerous other places where I have the great opportunity to observe people. That’s what I do. I watch the people passing by. I listen to what they say, even if I do not speak their language or immediately understand their words. I take in their actions and interactions. I think about where they have come from, how they grew up, what their childhood was like, what their occupations may be, what relationships affect their lives, and much more.
People-watching is such fun, and it allows one’s imagination to run riot.
I know that I can learn something from each and every one of them, if I allow myself to do so. The Dalai Lama tells us that we should listen to others so that we may learn.
For writers, this is most important.
We can observe and we can listen. From the snippets that we pick up, we can let our creativity build the world around those people that we are watching. What problems do they have? What may seem trivial to us could be the biggest part of somebody else’s life. Right now, I am carrying a huge sack of family and work problems around with me, trying to unravel the turmoil within. Would anybody who sees me walking past ever imagine any of the problems that I carry with me in that invisible sack? I doubt it.
And so the converse is true. I must tune in to the lives of others. I must build their worlds around them. By doing so, I could gather enough material to write a novel a day.
So hear the words of the Dalai Lama. Listen to me. And today, take the time to observe and listen as life passes you by. Everyone you see today has a story. Hear it!
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”