Today is my birthday, and I’ve got the day off from blogging! I’m happy to welcome a guest to the blog today, fellow writer and programmer, Mr. David D Sharp.
Sometimes we just run out of ideas. Maybe not the big ones, the sort you make a novel out of, but the little ones, the details and quirks that will make your story come to life. What can you do when you feel the dull clunk of the bottom of the ideas barrel? You could go backpacking round Asia, drop some acid, have an affair, try fasting. But here’s a far easier approach that will keep you supplied with a steady stream of inspiration.
Observe, and feel, everything. Consider your every waking moment research for a future project. Turn mundane situations into little dioramas. The rust on an old fence – what does that feel like? Why is that fence there? Who might have leaned against it, or even clambered over?
Even daily commutes to work can provide you with ideas. Consider those little landmarks of recognition, why is that they stand out in your mind? I regularly pass an old pub that recently closed and is now all boarded up. It sits on a harbourside, its wide windows once giving stunning views of the estuary on the otherside. Why did it close? Where did its regulars end up? The rusty gate leading round the side hangs open, what would I see if I were to go through it? What must that building be like inside? Dark and musty or cool and serene? Maybe someone new will reopen it and do it up – I wonder what sort of challenges they’ll face? Or maybe someone might be using it as a hiding place? See, to most people it’s just an old pub – to me it’s a treasure trove of ideas.
Double decker buses are another great place to do this. Sitting on the upper floor gives you a view of places you normally wouldn’t, over walls and into windows. You can also get away with observing the people below for longer as they go about their lives, a hundred interesting characters just waiting to be lifted onto your page. The couple arguing, the old woman grinning broadly at the bus stop or the tramp with white dreadlocks who always seems to know the best spots for sleeping rough. New stories are already forming in your head.
It may seem obvious advice but the trick is reminding yourself to keep your author hat on, to get into the habit. Don’t just close your eyes or zone out, scour the world around you at all times. And of course, if you can write it down then that’s even better.
I’ll leave you with a little piece I tapped into my phone earlier in the week whilst waiting for a hair cut:
The barber’s is unnaturally quiet. No TV here, no radio. The traffic outside, partially muted, is like an urban, ocean surf. As for the barber himself, no small talk, no chatting about last night’s game, half the reason I come here despite his miserable perma-expression. The only constant sound is the clack-clacking of scissor blades, followed by humming razor and finally, the broom to brush away the scatterings of hair that fell noiselessly to the tiled floor.
Soon it is my turn, a nod of the head indicates I am to sit in the freshly vacated chair. Then the barber sets about his business, tugging hair into various desired positions as the blades clip about me methodically. I ask for the same thing every time but it always comes out differently and never how I had hoped. Don’t worry, I tell my reflection, it’ll grow back. It’ll grow back.
David D Sharp was born in Zimbabwe but has lived most of his life in Scotland. He studied Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University and is a fully accredited geek. David’s work is often fantastical, occasionally witty, and has been featured on Shortbread Stories, McStorytellers and Weaponizer. As well as fiction, David has been known to create music, computer games and websites. You can find David at his blog A Wee Adventure.
His first collection of short stories, Thief of Sleep and Other Tales is available on Amazon.