These days, you don’t need to carry around a physical pad of paper and pen. You can take notes and jot down observations and ideas on your smartphone.
Or you can snap pictures of people and places that inspire a certain mood, or even the beginnings of a plot.
For instance, during my daily dog walks (one of my part time jobs), I kept encountering a little girl walking cheerfully with an umbrella – rain or shine. I always saw her at the same intersection in the same neighborhood, and she always greeted me with a smile.
One day she was even barefoot! The layers of mystery multiplied…
Life Imitates Art?
Anyway, this image stuck in my head so I worked it into my recently published novella, Things I Do When I’m Awake. The narrator notes that when he figured out her identity, she disappeared.
Ironically, and sadly, the same thing happened in real life. I haven’t seen the little girl since I wrote that line.
On another regular dog walk, I often passed this creepy looking old house that was seemingly abandoned, except at night a single yellow light shone – illuminating what appeared to be blood-stained window shades…
Naturally this too sparked my imagination, so I’m working it in as a subplot to my next novel, Vic Valentine: International Man of Misery.
In fact, I’m setting that book mostly in Costa Rica, where I’ll be instructing at a writer’s retreat in late January-early February 2017.
And you can bet I’ll be taking notes. In fact, it will be much like a recon mission, or location scouting for a film, along with a mutually educational and enlightening experience for my students and me.
A writer’s environment counts. Your regular home base should be one where you feel comfortable as well as invigorated.
But sometimes you need to step far outside your comfort zone in order to expand your artistic and personal horizons. That’s one reason I agreed to the Costa Rica deal, which is not only a great honor, but also possibly a life-changing experience.
The bottom line is, as a writer, you absorb whatever inspiration you can from wherever you happen to be, and whomever you happen to be with, at any given time throughout the course of your life.
And it doesn’t need to be a trip to Costa Rica. Even seemingly mundane occupations – like dog walking, for instance – can yield pure gold in terms of material, as long as you keep your ears and eyes open, and your virtual notepad handy.
It’s all part of the creative process. You don’t have to always be actually writing to be a writer. It’s a complex job, requiring not only skill, patience, persistence, and dedication, but also the simple art of quiet observation.
Eventually, it’s all grist for the mill.
PHOTO: XAVIER VERGES