You can observe a lot by watching--Yogi Berra
Dear People Who Are Not Writers:
Writers are not better than you. We are not special. We are not chosen. We are not in some way set apart from the vast multitudes. Writing is not a super power. It is a skill and a craft, like carpentry or shoemaking or making a good omelet.
What good writers do different from most in that we might pay more attention. We are observers, because we are storing away experiences outside of our own that we might be able to tap into when we need them.
And that is why I like to watch people do things, especially things that I'm not good at doing.
I once saw (and wish I could find again) an online video, without narration, of a luthier making a custom acoustic guitar. Choosing the right wood, carving it into the proper shape, finishing it with the right stain and the right sealer, inserting the pegs and notching the strings. It was a wonderful video that gave me a feeling of great respect. I've never used what I learned in a book, but that doesn't mean I won't.
Lately, due to a series of circumstances begun by a squirrel, I have had men in my house building a staircase, and now one of them is finishing the cosmetic touches on it, staining and polishing the stairs themselves, painting the risers and the walls. He looks at me funny sometimes, because every once in a while as he works, he'll look up to see me watching with great interest.
He'll go into great detail about why he's doing things that way, seeming almost apologetic about it, as if I'm accusing him of taking too long or charging too much. I'm not. I'm watching how something gets done that I don't know how to do.
My wife gives me a similar look every now and again because I'll sit at the kitchen table and watch her cook. She'll stop and look. "Yes?" she'll ask. I just like watching her cook. I like watching her do most things, but in this case I find cooking to be something of a mystery, and she doesn't, so I spy on her when she's practicing the craft.
It's not simply that I might want to use the knowledge in a future story; I have an honest curiosity about process. I'll watch documentaries about how certain films or albums were made because I admire the work and want to know how it was accomplished.
We should all have great respect for those who can do things we can't do. I look at waitresses who can balance six heaping plates of food on one arm and deliver them gracefully and I am impressed. I see piano tuners who can quickly and accurately predict D# by ear and I applaud. I go to concerts and watch the bass player for a while because nobody else is, and I wonder how he manages to create melodic lines from an instrument that is supposed to be kept in the background.
So if you're at work someday and you see a short, overweight bearded man watching you with what seems like undue fascination, don't call a cop, particularly if he resembles the photo to the right of the guy with the guitar. I'm not a stalker or a depraved sex fiend (I'm pretty sure).
I'm just a writer; that's all.
Don't come looking for me tomorrow night. It'll be the first game of the season for my New York Yankees, and that is as close as I ever get to a religious holiday. The phone will not be answered.