how to stare at people (and also birds)

the other day, i was sitting outside on my back porch and got to witness a mama robin teaching her teenager (as i assumed this not-quite-baby robin to be) how to fly. for a while–like twenty minutes at least–the teenager just sat on the fence post grooming himself and pecking at the wood like, “screw this, i just wanna go back to bed.” eventually, the mama flew over and perched next to him as if to say, “you get your ASS in the sky you lazy little SHIT.” and only then did he finally fly. i gotta say, even though i may have embellished it mentally, it was still friggin’ hilarious.

i might have to take up birdwatching now.

this cute little bird story is just one of the hundreds of things one can observe in a given day. we twenty-first century peoples are on the move a lot, and when we aren’t, we’re more than likely staring at our phones or other such screens. i’m as guilty of this as anyone, which is why i should probably work on practicing what i’m about to preach.

observe the world.

this is sage advise and i’m certainly not the first nor the last to suggest this. but next time you’re in a public place, whether it’s a coffee shop, a grocery store, or a restaurant–and especially if you’re alone–stop and look around. pay attention to your surroundings for a while, especially people. i promise it’s not creepy–as long as you don’t just straight-up stare at them. keep your eyes moving. use your peripherals. casual glance. whatever.

obviously, if you’re watching a lake or some trees or some birds, then the aforementioned directives are a little more lax. meaning, stare to your heart’s content. most birds will not mind, i think.

people watching–and birdwatching, and just watching things in general–is fascinating (and sometimes downright entertaining). and it’s a really great habit to get into as a writer because it hones your ability to pay attention to detail, which is, like, a really big deal if you want to write compelling narratives. no matter your genre of interest, it’ll give you so much insight into how people (and birds, etc.) behave–which, in turn, can make your writing more vivid and believable.

in my college creative writing classes, the professor made us keep a notebook of daily observations to help train our powers of perception and (he hoped) generate some short story ideas. i’m not saying i was always the most diligent about it (even when, to my chagrin, we had to go around and share a recent observation with the class), but i did appreciate what he was trying to do. it did help me pay better attention to my surroundings, and on occasion, something did jump out at me that i could use in a story–even if it was just one sentence.

so now i shall pass on this timeless wisdom. i implore you all to be a little creepy and watch people. take notes. just don’t let them catch you staring, maybe. out of courtesy. if you really wanna be the picture of stealth, try taking notes on your phone. that way, you’ll blend in with everyone else.

they’ll never suspect a thing.

observe anything interesting lately? comment below!


9 responses to “how to stare at people (and also birds)”

  1. Mom of the Moment Avatar
    Mom of the Moment

    Nice post!

    1. thank you so much!

  2. Hi, I have an 18-months old and it’s true, you do experience the world from their perspective. And that’s a perspective where everything, every little detail, seems to be new to them (is new to them). So it can be really exciting actually 🙂

    1. i totally agree! though i don’t have kids yet i’ve heard how fun it is to see them discover the world for the first time ^~^ gotta tap into that childlike wonder! thanks for sharing!

  3. […] at the screen, hiccuping a few words an hour (ugh, i’ve been there), step away. go outside. stare at some birds. take a nap. (or get some […]

  4. […] easier to write if you’re in a place where other people are quietly working. Also, you can people watch, which is always good fodder for creative […]

  5. […] yes, this goes back to my sage advice that you should stare at people. Now you should also eavesdrop on them, too. No, but seriously, think about it: we’ve spend […]

  6. […] I can’t stop referencing my how to stare at people (and also birds) post, but dang it, it applies. Vacations are such a great opportunity for people-watching […]

  7. […] for once I’m not talking about people/birdwatching. (Oh my God, Becca, did you just…?) I’m talking about watching TV and movies. […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: