I got called ‘unobservant’ as a kid a lot, usually because my nose was stuck in a book. My mom said, on more than one occasion, that the house could probably burn down around my ears without me noticing.
In all fairness, it often took someone yelling in my ear–more than once–to get my attention. So I understand why I probably frustrated my parents and anyone else who ever tried to get my attention. (To this day, I still have this problem…unfortunately.)
Yet, when I did take time to look up from a book, I would pick up things and notice stuff that most folks overlooked.
I see this weird sort of dichotomy in other writers often. We appear unobservant simply because we tend to be reading books or watching movies or, in some way, consuming story–and not just consuming, but analyzing it, figuring out how we can bring out the same sort of emotion/action/whatever in our own stories, and filing story seeds away for later. But when we do put down the book or screen, we can be very observant, remembering exactly how someone looked on a certain day, or spotting a detail that others missed.
Sometimes I forget to be observant. As good as it is for me to consume stories, I don’t need to be doing it constantly. Sometimes a brain needs a break from consumption in order to be refilled by observation. Besides, life would be a lot less interesting if I constantly consumed but never observed, and I think that’s something we could all do well to remember.
What about you? Do you try to make a conscious effort to spend some time being observant?