Slice of Life Story-Delving Into Old Notebooks

I have been mining old notebooks this week looking for examples of observational writing. It is related to a writing project I am currently undertaking. Sometimes as writers we just need to sit and look around us for inspiration. We don't have to create possibilities from scratch.They merely await discovery.

We must hone our observational abilities. Rereading my notebook entries, I am surprised at how often I write in this way. This type of writing reminds me of photography and the painting of portraits. The writer must use words to build a picture in the mind of the reader.

I want young writers to see for themselves that these seemingly ordinary moments, are gold for writers. I see it as an opportunity to shine a light on a moment that might otherwise pass by without recognition. Hopefully, it encourages the inexperienced writer, to be a more astute observer. 

I enjoyed the rereading and the reliving of these experiences. Here are some of my small moments. Moments captured in various notebooks. This is definitely living life twice...

The car swings into the disabled parking space directly in front of the cafĂ©. I am transfixed. Two large, able bodied women emerge from the car and remove bundles of assorted bedding, including a duvet from the rear of the car. They cross the road looking somewhat like floating fluffy clouds, walking in the direction of the dry cleaning shop presumably. They return shortly, minus the load of bedding, remove two handbags from the car, before heading off to explore nearby shops. About ten minutes later a parking officer, the kind renowned for eating their own young appears and duly places a parking infringement notice on the car’s windscreen. 
I believe I have witnessed a living example of karma. 

The short and sweet life of Christmas wrapping paper. Your work here is done and your value diminished bright, papery piece. Crumpled, torn and discarded. Thank you for your contribution to the magic of gift giving and your role in prolonging the wonder and surprise.

Reality talent shows on television tend to serve up voices that are powerful, yet forgettable, almost bland in their tonal quality, -at least to my ear. I can’t imagine how a Neil Young would have fared on one of these current shows. Music like so many others aspects of our lives is becoming standardized. So much of it is forgettable, indistinguishable and a tad blah!  And I think that’s a rather sad development…

A small, dark coloured Mazda is on my tail. I sense urgency from the driver. She drives behind me with a closeness that is both dangerous and disturbing. I am driving at the speed limit and the cars in front of me are doing the same. Still the driver pushes- impatient and so close. I can almost see her eyes. Suddenly she veers left across three lanes of traffic and accelerates sharply before cutting back into the lane. Her snaking manoeuvres across lanes of traffic have placed her two car lengths ahead of me. She repeats the lane change dance again, however this time her efforts place her in the lane directly alongside me.

The traffic moves ahead and eventually she slides across the lane to take up a position directly behind me again. She had undertaken a mad dash to nowhere. Unable to defy the inner screams that demand haste and impatience, she felt compelled to test the truism that the other lane always moves faster. There was no space in her head to hear the quiet, yet truly powerful voice of reason. As the Beatles sang, ‘Switch off, relax and float downstream.’

I sat next to a man on the plane who seemed a little agitated. He had my favoured aisle seat. His legs never stopped moving throughout the two hour flight. He read his newspaper from front to back before starting again.  When we landed and the seat belt sign was extinguished, he was out of his seat as if propelled. I was left wondering -was he always like this or did something happen within the last twenty four hours that has created this tension within him? 

At the supermarket this morning I watch as a mother leans in and speaks calmly to a somewhat demanding child, ‘You seem to have lost the PLEASE word. Maybe it’s time to start a search. What do you think?'

I’m standing in a shopping mall waiting to order my lunch from a sandwich bar/deli; the kind where you build your sandwich from an assortment of fillings. My order is taken and I stand waiting for the sandwich to be completed. A man standing beside me begins to order his lunch from a second person serving behind the counter. As he begins to relay his order, his phone rings. He dives into his pocket and extracts his phone of choice and holds up a hand to the woman before uttering ‘Hang on a minute.’ She immediately stops sandwich construction duties, and stands as if in suspended animation for what seems an eternity. Her serving tongs are held like a torch in the air while phone man attends to his all important message. The woman says nothing, as if frozen mid order. An interminable time passes with phone man glued to his phone listening, still listening. All the while the woman waits. Her eyes though, begin to betray her disquiet at what is taking place here. She says nothing. The man finally lowers the phone from his ear and resumes reciting his order. No apology, no explanation. The woman with incredible restraint and good grace, resumes her duties and completes the order.


  1. I was transfixed by your observations, living in each moment, in awe of your wonderings. I hope we can get to a place again when we are able to be out and about to "people watch", to use this post as inspiration for our own notebooks.

    1. Thank you for your kind remarks Chris. Like you, I long for a return to those easy days of people watching. It for me, remains a critical part of the writing process. In the meantime I must content myself with the tranquility of quiet settings for a spot of inspiration. If this post can support others, I am delighted.


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