Once upon a time, I was riding in a car driven by the late Dr. Ronald F. Smits, Professor Emeritus at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the man responsible for rekindling my love of poetry, and of writing in general. In the course of our conversation he mentioned a quote by Colin Wilson about poetry coming from “holiday consciousness” and creating a “holiday consciousness” in the reader. The quote stuck with me, although it was mis-remembered as “writers look at the world through holiday eyes,” hence the name of this post.
Writing is my passion, my love, my creative outlet. It lets me — encourages me — to look at the world in my own unique way. (And I’ve always had a unique — and slightly warped! — way of looking at the world.)
Writing encourages me to examine things more closely, to look at them as if seeing them for the first time — seeing through “holiday eyes.”
And not just seeing things as if new — holiday nose, holiday ears, holiday hands, holiday tongue are all just as appropriate. As a writer, I strive to use all of my senses to explore the world around me, to notice it as if it were something brand new so that I can share the details of it with my readers.
The other day I was going through some old notebooks from various classes – I had a tendency to jot down notes to myself in them and I didn’t want to throw away anything important. I will now freely admit that some of those notebooks have fewer words about class than they do notes describing other students or the view out the windows.
And I once admitted to an English professor that I hadn’t finished a reading assignment because I was watching a squirrel build a nest. (And he admitted that the squirrel’s nest-building was probably more purposeful than the essay he had assigned – I think it was one by Michel de Montaigne.)
So the problem, for me, lies not so much in the observation of the world as in putting it into words for others to read: the thing that I have the most trouble working into my novels is description — I get far too wrapped up in the people and the plot and end up with a lot of talking heads. I’ve also been known to write entire scenes and leave myself a note in the rough draft: [WHERE ARE THEY DURING THIS?] (Yeah, there’s nothing like a heart to heart conversation that takes place in the middle of nowhere.)
I am getting better. (At least I recognize it when I do it – or don’t do it – now.) It still doesn’t come naturally and I tend to leave it for the second draft, but more description is slowly creeping into my fiction.
Maybe someday I will be able to let others see through my holiday eyes.