There is no real secret. Ideas are everywhere. It’s just taking the time to recognize them and then answer the Muse’s favorite question: ‘What if…” Fortunately I have a lot of places to look for ideas. They come to me on a consistent basis. It’s up to me to grasp each opportunity and own the moment (I’ll talk about that in a sec).
Opportunities come in a couple different ways;
1. Undeniable Opportunities:
I was sitting in a cafe shop one day leading a coffee tasting with four friends. As we sat there I noticed a man, with seventy clothes (velvet shirt, bell bottom pants, and a Beatles looking hair cut – you know the straight look that they had in their young albums) he walked quickly up to the barista and said, “Are you from London?” To which the barista laughed and said, “Nope, not all all.” The man then asked him if he was sure. The barista, then confirmed it with a hearty (Yep, born and raised in Wichita Kansas. I would know if I were from Europe.” To which the other man said, “Really? That is so strange because you look like a rock star!” To which the barista started laughing and responded with, “If is were a rock star I surely wouldn’t be wasting my time serving coffee for $7.25 and hour.”
As the guy walked away, looking back at the barista every few steps I thought, This is funny, I have to turn this into a short story – and I did, in fact I wrote three different stories all bases off of the short interaction that had taken place. I did a short fiction, a short comedy horror, and a short mystery. And two of the three have sold.
Point is that we all get these great moments that just throw themselves at us. In those moments, as a writer you have to be ready to react – as a writer. Don’t let the moment and the feelings pass you by. Instead stop, think about what happened, look around at others, get a feel for the moment, and then take some notes so that later, when you are ready to produce some creative word count, you can write about that.
These opportunities seem to come by themselves too, but they are soft moment, quiet moments, and they are very easily passed up. It could be a moment in your car – it’s hot outside, your stuck in traffic, creepy along at a snails pace, the radio is on, and you suddenly realize that everything is moving in slow motion, and you just kind of slowly flow with it. You look out at other drivers – a man yells on his cell phone at someone, but his voice is lost in the background of reality, a group of teens walk along the side walk laughing, the woman in the car ahead of you uses the rear view mirror to fix her makeup. The issues of life, and humanity come into your mind. You experience a sense of oneness with the planet, and then, as quickly as you were caught up into it, a horn blares, and your realize that your holding up traffic. Your back to the present travailing at a quick speed of one second by one second into the future.
These moments can very easily pass you by, you not even realizing that you had a great experience that was full of thought, feelings, concern, and realization. This is a great writing opportunity. I write these moments out as a short story or prose, and then I put them in a file and go back over them later to see if there’s anything there to work with.
Most diaries and online journals or blogs are basically inspired by these moments: what happened to me today, what I’m feeling right now and why, how I reacted to something I heard or seen. These are all reflections, and many inspirational stories, novels, and screen plays come from these moments. You just write down the moment as clearly and precisely as you can, and then ask questions like; “How can I get this point across to more people? What can I change in this story so that it becomes something that everyone can really relate to and understand.
Practical Application (example, all fictitious):
- Thomas Kline finds himself sitting at a bus stop waiting for his bus. to his left is a mother and her six year old son, who has a mental disability. To his right is a lawyer who makes a rude comment about people with disabilities and their weight on society. Thomas is offended for the boy and later on that day he stews and stews over it. He thinks about how he’d love to see that lawyer come face to face with a disabled person who is better at everything than he is. ‘That would be awesome. Put him in his place. Just because a person does not talk or interact in a socially acceptable way does not mean that they can not do many many great things’ He thought. Rekindling all those emotions he grabs a pen and paper and begins writing about a man named Forest Gump. (Again, this was a fictitious example)
Reflective opportunities come to you when something moves you, or gets you to momentarily question life. Many times questions you ask yourself about religion, spirituality, life after death, will give birth to these moments, but also those things that move you towards happy experiences, or angry feelings will bring these moments. Ask yourself, what do I love, and what to I hate? then write.
3. Created Opportunities:
These are moments you can create yourself. For me, I’ve created several play lists on my computer. I have; happy, dark, melodic, joyful, strange and interesting, angry, misery, triumphant, and depressing – lists. To create an experience for the piece I’m writing, I think about what it is the moment is calling for, what the character is feeling, and then I try and create the moment and feelings for myself, by turning on that play list and relaxing, allowing the feelings the music creates to craft images and stir imagination and then I grab my pen, or put my fingers to the key board and take off.
Music is a great tool for my creative process. You may have something else you like to do that does it for you. I also find that mowing the lawn, taking hot showers late at night, a walk in the park, taking the kids to a playground and sitting back and watching them play, and working out at the gym cause my creative juices to start marinating my brain with great ideas.
Lastly – Own The Moment:
If there is anything that I can say in all of this that you are actually going to commit to memory, and take away with you I really hope that it is this: No matter what you experience. No matter what kind of circumstances you find around you. No matter how good or bad things seem to be, remember that the circumstances and issues do not own you, you own you and if you look at every single thing that comes your way as an opportunity to better your self, you can own every circumstance. If you have a really stressful day – write about it, turn it into money. If you are in a bad relationship, don’t let it own you, as a writer, write about it – own it, and make it work out for you.
a. I was irritated with my wife for something. Later we both found that it was a big miscommunication issue. Instead of stewing over it, I changed the people and places, and events, and wrote a short story about it. I also took what I learned from the situation and sold an article to a couples magazine.
b. My wife called me one night about a month ago and told me that a man had cut her off and actually ran her off the road. Luckily she was able to run off into a gas station. I was furious about it and wished that I could jump in my car and go find him, but that was impossible, so to release my feelings of vengeance, I wrote a short horror story about a man whose wife was killed by a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel. In the story, the protagonist was able to track down the man and hand deliver some extreme justice – I sure felt better after getting it out of my system.
c. I was closing a job down one night. I was sitting at my desk and my co-worker, (a beautiful women about my age and the only other person in the building) came over to my desk and sat down in my lap. I quickly let her know that that was really inappropriate. She text my cell phone later asking me if I wanted to come over while both of our spouses were at work. I declined and shared a few strong words with her. That night, however, I was really bothered about how much sexual tension can be created in the work place, and even more so, how many couples cheat on each other with co-workers. I decided to do a study on the matter and produced a great article called “A Time to Work… it?”, which I sold to an online magazine.
These are ways to take Ownership of the issues and circumstances that you face day in and day out. Life is really just a progression of circumstances after circumstances. You are thrown into a never ending flow of issues, all calling for your reaction. It is the science: For every action there is a reaction. How you react to every action that comes to you will determine the level of ownership you obtain.
I write, I am a writer, and the more I write the better I get, it’s evolution – the process of personal growth – the mechanics of life. As I writer, I have decided that I must view every moment as an opportunity to take ownership of my writing future. I will Own the Moment – the moments will not own me. I will write.
Hope you found something good here today…I did.