The 2016 Presidential election. Well, that happened.
I’m not going to tell you who I voted for, or ask anyone to divulge their candidate of choice. If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that my readers are both intelligent and well-educated, and I’m confident that all of you voted according to your conscience. The fact that we can do that is one of the basic reasons the USA is such a wonderful place to live.
What I am going to do is tell you about my experiences while voting. What does this have to do with NaNoWriMo, you ask? Well, nothing, and everything. Hang on, you’ll see.
Due to a series of not very random events, I didn’t get to my polling location until after 5 pm. The first thing I noticed was the line; no one, and I mean no one, votes where I live, which is nice when I want to get in and out fast. But there was a line yesterday, and I thought yay, voter turnout!
I got my ballots, did my thing, and then I checked out and queued up to deposit my ballot in that little R2D2 contraption before heading home. Then the unthinkable happened.
The contraption jammed.
The R2D2 wannabe hissed and spit, and refused to take another ballot. The vast majority of us sighed, pulled out our phones, and politely ignored each other while those working at the polling station figured out what to do–but in every group there’s one.
“Voter suppression,” shrieked a woman near the front of the line. “You’re refusing to count my vote!”
“Ah, ma’am,” said the obviously-not-getting- paid-enough-for-this-nonsense man. “The machine is just jammed. It’ll be fixed in a minute.”
“Is it the paper?” she demanded. “Are these ballots printed on faulty paper? And why are you so calm? This is serious!”
“Yes, ma’am, it is serious,” he replied. “The machine’s been jamming all day, so we’re kinda used to it.”
“ALL DAY,” she repeated, in all caps (and possibly italics). “WHY HAVEN’T YOU SENT FOR A REPLACEMENT?”
And she went on, railing on about conspiracy theories and voter intimidation, and at one point she drew a comparison between the jammed machine and Jimmy Hoffa. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.
And that, my writer friends, is why I’m telling you this story. We writers are observers first, and we take in the minute details that others gloss over, and used them to create amazing works of fiction and nonfiction. I’m not currently working on a piece about an individual steeped in conspiracy theories who has an incident at a polling location, but maybe someday I will. When I need to write that sort of character, my writing will be stronger because I will have witnessed it first hand.
Now, I’m not exhorting you to go forth and cultivate trouble. What I am saying is to be present and aware as you move about your days, much like you orient your reader to time and space within your writing. Our shared human experience is a gold mine of inspiration, cautionary tales, and, above all, beauty.
And wackiness. Can’t forget the wackiness.
Have you ever witnessed something so out there you thought, wow, you can’t make this stuff up? Tell us in the comments!
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