Are Your Writer Senses Tingling?

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Recently, the working world has been debating the pros and cons of remote work vs. office work, especially the blurred line between work time and personal time. I agree that workers shouldn’t be required to be available to their clients/supervisors 24/7. People need to have a portion of each day when they aren't working.

Things are different when you’re a writer. As a writer, I’ve come to accept that my writer senses (much like Spider-Man’s spidey senses) are tingling all the time – whether I’m at work or not. While spidey senses are looking for crimes, writer senses are looking for ideas. Some of my best ideas came to me, not during my time in my office, but when I was “off duty”. As writers, I think every experience of our life should include a faint whisper, ”Could this be useful to the writer in me ?” So, for writers, personal and work life often overlap.

I looked over the past few months of writing to find out what in my personal life led to ideas for articles, essays, short fiction and more came from and here’s what I came up with:
  • Gift of chocolate covered pretzels from my in-laws (Thanks, Lisa & Tom!) 
  • Planning a baby shower 
  • Facebook post about The Quiet Man 
  • Dusting my living room 
  • Buying tea bags 
  • Making pierogies 
  • Visit to Longwood Gardens 
  • Local newspaper article about the PA Chamber of Commerce 
  • Email from the PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs 
  • Billboard in my daughter’s town

From this weird combination I sold five magazine articles, landed one part-time position with a magazine, wrote one spec article and three essays and sent four queries (one refused and three awaiting replies).

Take full advantage of your writer senses by always being able to jot down a thought, whether it be a notepad, cellphone or even a scrap of paper. It could be an unusual place or person you want research further, a funny thing someone said or even how one thing reminds you of another. For me the Quiet Man led to an essay exploring relationships between fathers and daughters. Capture these fleeting thoughts as soon as they pop into your brain. You think you’ll remember that fabulous idea that popped into your head as you were running the kids to baseball practice but trust me, you won’t.

Sometimes an interesting experience immediately transforms into an idea for a writing project. Other times it just remains an interesting experience. That’s why I also periodically make lists of interesting things from my day with no writing ideas attached to them. If you take time to mull over those lists, you may find a way to use them in your writing. Here’s my list from yesterday:
  • Diabetic pumps
  • Math phobia
  • Warming vests for hunters
  • Seniors reluctance to drive 
  • Sharing baby photos on social media
  • Aging poll workers
  • Politicizing of colors red/blue
  • Relativity of “old” – Vans sneakers
  • Red tape preventing common sense solutions
  • Saying thank you to volunteers

They may not make much sense to you but I can already see the vague outlines of a few writing ideas I’d like to explore.

I also invite others to join my hunt for ideas. I tell friends and strangers alike to let me know about any interesting people, places or events they know about because I’m a writer always looking for ideas. Often that will lead to an immediate, “You should talk to…” Other times, months later someone will contact me with a thought or an event they think would interest me. 

Where’s the most unusual place you’ve found an idea that was transformed into a writing project?

Jodi M. Webb writes from her home in the Pennsylvania mountains. After a decade hiatus from writing, she is back with bylines in Tea Journey, Mental Floss and a WIP about her plant obsession. She's also a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. Get to know her @jodiwebbwrites , Facebook and blogging at Words by Webb.


Angela Mackintosh said...

You always have such creative ideas, Jodi! I'd love to read your essay on fathers and daughters inspired by the Quiet Man. :)

I started writing a long-form essay about my relationship with my father, but the spark formed after reading the diary of an unscrupulous gold miner who founded the town I live in. That led to a braided narrative about the ghost of an old gold miner and how I invited my father to come live with me during the pandemic. It's considered speculative memoir, and it's still a work-in-progress.

I love your checkered Vans!

Jodi Webb said...

I'm so jealous. You come from a place with gold miners. All we have is coal miners.

My essay started with how when I was growing up my dad and I always watched movies together (John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, etc.) because it was a time of one TV in the house and dad gets first pick. And even though I think most fathers and daughters struggle to find a link, there's always something. Like movies. He's 85 and I'll still call him "Hey, the Quiet Man is on tonight." It's sort of our opening line because I can't call "just to talk".

Andrea Dorn said...

Waiting rooms used to be my best writing places, but the inspiration almost always came from animals and nature. I now spend my time in waiting rooms reading instead. My writing is done in my office or outside.

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