A writer uses what experience he or she has. It’s the translating, though, that makes the difference.
– John Irving
Sometimes our lives give us more than enough writing material, but often we are floundering about for something to spark our imagination. Here are a few suggestions that may help:
- Steal stories from people you don’t know. It may be a remark by someone in the grocery line or an overheard cell phone conversation that catches your attention.
- Use the world around you for inspiration. Eudora Welty drove past a small country post office and saw an ironing board though the window. This quick moment in her life became her famous story, “Why I Live at the P.O.”
- Read other stories, poems, book reviews. I was reading a review of a Kate Walbert book when I suddenly understood how I needed to structure a story I had been trying to write for years.
- Meditate. Start by taking deep breaths; then invite your muse in to inspire you. I’m amazed at how often the first line of a poem or an image for a story comes to me when I do this.
- Be a people watcher. Sit at a café or a park. Go to your local museum or ride the subway. Park yourself in the middle of the mall or in a store (think watching men in Victoria Secrets). Find a place full of people and let your imagination go wild by asking yourself questions about the people you see. Why is she constantly checking her phone? Why is the guy in the million dollar suit reading a romance novel? There are a million stories just waiting to be discovered.
My all-time favorite way to be inspired is to look at news stories. What happens in real life is often better than anyone’s imagination. You can’t make up this stuff, believe me. In one day, Sept. 27, 2010, I found the following four stories. Any of them could jumpstart your imagination:
- “Bronx grade-school teacher admits she’s ex-hooker – and flaunts it.” She was proud of the fact she had been a former stripper and prostitute who had advertised on Craigslist.
- “Midnight jet skiers break down in delta.” The article started, “Spending a balmy night on the water is all fun and games until your engine stops working, two jet skiers found out early today.”
- “Missing man’s kin mark year.” A man disappeared from his relative’s house, but left behind his money, cell phone and medication. A year later, no one knows if he is alive or dead.
- This one is my favorite only because of the irony. According to the article, “James W. Heselden, the owner of the company that makes the Segway, died Sunday morning when he drove one of the two-wheeled scooters off a cliff close to his home in West Yorkshire, England.”
Believe me, just pay attention to the world around you, and you will never run out of stories, poems, or topics to write about.
Make the everyday daring!