I was thinking today about how often, as a writer, I get an idea for something to write about. Sometimes, when I see a photo online, that’s enough to get me writing. I recently wrote about a Lady In Red and it was partly inspired by a photo of a woman sitting at the bar, and partly by my own experiences sitting in bars lately.
Sometimes, I’ll be engaged in conversation with someone and I’ll just latch on to a particular part of a joke someone said, or a certain line, or a mannerism and I’ll go from there. Also sometimes I find inspiration enough just being in a particular place at a particular time.
In any case, I usually end up reverting to jotting down ideas for stories on my phone. I begin a text and then save it as a draft, ready for the next time I want to recall what I was feeling, or what I saw, or what ideas I had.
Here are a couple of examples I have on my phone. Keep in mind, the samples I’m posting aren’t indicative of any lasting feelings I have, or anything about my own character. Some are dark, most are introspective. But all are fragments. None are complete. All are meant to be used for creative purposes later on down the road.
#1. SOMETHING DEPRESSING
I’m crying. I place the barrel of the pistol in my mouth and the iron sights unceremoniously click on my front teeth. I bite down and feel it bite back on the roof of my mouth. The still-human side of me wants to take the gun out, rethink it. The part of me that’s dead inside already cooly understands that when I pull the trigger – the recoil will knock some of my teeth loose. All that gun oil I smell will be the last thing I smell, mixed with the aroma of my own burned mouth flesh as the gun goes off.
#2. PEOPLE WATCHING
The December sun is being soaked up by greedy sidewalk bricks as I sit with a cup of water in my hand. I’m sitting in the brick window of a cafe, elbows on knees, squinting into the light and watching boats bob up and down in the bay. Like the bricks, my black jeans absorb the surprising heat of the winter sun. A small, yappy lapdog barks at curious pigeons. Men and women click their heels on the sidewalk as they stroll smiling past, leaving trails of cologne and perfume in their wake.
#3. EMOTIONAL/MEMORY TRIGGERS
Under flickering streetlights, the wind-rocked car sits with me inside it. I take long draws from the hot latte in my hands, closing my eyes with each savory sip. How long has it been? How many years had passed since I first discovered I liked the chaos, the tumult, of the rising storm? Each passing car sounds like a breaking wave, and in my mind’s eye I’m on a dark beach somewhere, with the black sky meeting black water, and I’m reveling in the wind. I’m certainly not here, in this artificially-lit, asphalt lot. I’m sitting on damp, chill rocks – not a crumb-and-change-covered car seat with old cigarette scars marring the fabric.
My brother is next to me, smiling, and we’re chatting about girl problems. I give him the best advice I can, which I know he doesn’t take. When I open my eyes again, expecting to see his dark, tousled hair – instead I only face the empty seat, the rain-slicked window glass.
#4: JOTTING DOWN DETAILS
Dark forms, people closing, cigarette smoke, chill damp air, abandoned shopping carts, me punching mailbox, leftover XMas decoration, passing cars, sounds of construction, sounds of rain, two guys walking with boombox listening to rock, toes chafing in too-small shoes, old buildings, brick and cobblestone sidewalks, running trucks/buses, haze in air, traffic cones, oil painting courses sign, melting snowbanks, fallen branches, trickling in sewers, old coffee cups and wet trash, pot smoke, friends chatting, walking dogs.
In the first example, I was going through a depressing time and sometimes when I’m going through depression, I have crazy thoughts. The thoughts themselves are usually pretty easy to deal with, and my way for doing this is to somehow write about it. In the second example, I was waiting for my girlfriend to get out of work. It was relatively nice out for a winter day, so I just tapped away at my phone, recording emotions and thoughts I was having. In the third example, there was a storm going on and storms tend to make me wax poetic, which I did about my Brother who has been missing for some time. In the final example, I was going to meet friends for a drink after work, and I know when I’m drinking I can be creative – so I started writing down details for a future Facebook post or blog post.
In all cases, though, I tend to try and write it all down somehow, whether it’s online or on my computer or even in a Moleskine notebook. So, my advice to you is to write down as much as you can in the moment. It might not be your saving grace or your definite, preferred method – but it will keep your ideas intact for future posterity. Plus, it will give you a good reason to have a phone in front of your face while you’re out experiencing nature.