The closest I’ve come to a coastal writing retreat is grabbing 20 minutes to sketch out an opening paragraph while a technician repaired my leaking washing machine. The most dramatic thing that has happened to me so far today is burning the toast. Time for an artist’s tantrum? Nope. These are actually examples of perfect moments to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, and potentially write some of your best words yet.
Our everyday lives are bottomless cups of inspiration – if we let them be. That’s where the uniqueness of our perceptions and thoughts, the heart and soul of engaging writing, lurks. So why not start a ‘daily differentness’ diary, to delve into when you’re looking for a new idea, description or snippet of dialogue?
The more ordinary the better.
Take getting out of bed. Millions of people do that each day, but you do it differently. Perhaps you did it to the soundtrack of your three-year-old making tractor noises today. Where could the combination of animal-print pyjamas and meadow-flower duvet cover lead you? What did the person you shared your bed with say as they left? Even before you’ve had your first caffeine, your inspirational journal will be growing.
To make things more manageable, try sorting your scribbles under these three headings: Places, People, Possessions.
Below are a few triggers for each section to get you started. You will, of course, find plenty more as you let your on-board creativity flow.
What three things come to mind when you think of your place of birth (a view, a bit of dialect, a feeling…)?
Recall a few locations that have a memorable smell and write a few words about each of them, letting your nose do the talking.
Start a list of spaces and places that make you feel energised, scared or nostalgic.
Describe the view out of the window closest to you right now.
In one sentence, describe your family to a visiting alien.
Give the next stranger you see a nickname and imagine what they were doing an hour ago.
Write down something you heard someone say over the past 24 hours.
Pick a piece of clothing worn by a person you see in a photograph or video today and invent a reason for their choice.
Write a few words about something you own but didn’t buy.
Name a few banal possessions that you’ve personalised in some way, from your smartphone to the trousers you recently shortened.
Take one of your easily accessible possessions in your hand – it can be as mundane as a chewing gum wrapper – give it a voice and ask it what its first impression of you was.
We don’t need to be listening to waves crashing into cliffs, or cruising around the Tuscan hills in a cabriolet, to find our inner artists. If Kazuo Ishiguro could write The Remains of the Day sparked by a passing joke made by his spouse, and Khalend Hosseneini came up with The Kite Runner storyline while watching TV news, imagine what could lie ahead.
Your ordinary is always extraordinary.
About Amanda Blair
Amanda Blair is the author of Limited Edition of One, an interactive book dedicated to exploring the reader’s uniqueness. In addition to writing, she coaches individuals and teams in turning their differentness into happiness and success. She also lectures internationally on communication topics.
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