It was an August funeral. And that means hot and humid, with mosquitoes the size of basketballs. I flew into Milwaukee to meet my buddy Jeff, so we could drive to Minneapolis together. We wanted to be there for Brett – his mom had died years ago, and now his dad – heart attack, only 52.
Jeff was driving through corn-country in the rolling hills of central Wisconsin, and I was looking out the window. Although close friends, we had taken very different paths out of college. Jeff went corporate. I moved to Hollywood to "become a screenwriter."
At some point during the drive, I asked Jeff about his job. He was a Project IT/Operations Manager, but whatever words he used to explain, I just heard the teacher in Schultz' Peanuts: "Wonk, wonk, wonk."
But then it happened. Jeff volleyed back the question with a tinge of sarcasm: "So what do you do?" I was still staring out the window, absorbing the visual farmscapes, thinking about my own father's heart, and wondering what the one-eyed guy was air-drumming to at the last rest stop... and that's when it clicked.
I looked at Jeff and opened my arms: "THIS is what I do?" That was it. Pure and simple. I was looking out the window to the wide and wonderful world, AND I was working: creating characters, building worlds, and developing stories. "I'm a writer," I explained, and I was, but that was the first time I actually said it out loud.
What people often underestimate about writers is the fact that we ARE working all the time. Stories are everywhere. Characters, situations, dialogue... we experience it every day, but the writer uses it, files it, develops it. Writing IS thinking, and looking out the window – at least for this writer - is a great way to exercise the mind.