Last week, my mom and I ducked into a nearby coffee shop to get some writing done. It's in one of those "quaint-main-street-shopping-for-antiques" sort of towns, but there's good coffee and tall tables and the right sort of view.
So Mom and I walk in, scoping out the table situation, running through our checklists--not too much glare or too much shadow, not too close to the music or a loud table. And I always like to have my back to a wall, or I feel like everyone who walks through the doors is trying to peer at the pages I'm drafting. (This is usually paranoia, but it's happened to Mom before.)
The girl behind the counter was watching us, and then asked "Are you from around here? Are you from New York City?"
That stopped me cold. "Uh--no, we live one town away." And drove past wheat fields and farm houses and that big lake that's emptied of its lily pads for now...
She said that she has an aunt who lives in NYC, and that we dressed like her.
I did not laugh (until later). I did not say: Have you never left this county? Instead, I looked at our clothes: both of us were wearing black. Was this unusual?
I'd also decided to be resourceful and turn a favorite tweedy skirt into a dress. But I'm not exactly known for my sophistication... especially since I seem to do half my writing while wearing pajamas. So you might confuse me with a hypochondriac, but never with a New Yorker.
"Well," I said to the girl. "We're writers. Maybe that's it. Maybe it shows."
"That's it," she said.
So now we know: there's a writerly look, and after three years of earnest pursuit, I have it! Now I just need to figure out what it was that she saw...
Dialogue bubbles floating above my head? The chorus of characters clattering along behind me? Or the sort of vague, distracted look that isn't really directed at the chalkboard of specials or the canisters of hot coffee, but is trying to squint back into my story and see what my heroine sees.
(And sometimes, it's my heroine staring back at me, trying to see past my looming face so she can order a black & white latté, or perhaps the scone of the day...)