Why Wait For The Light-Bulb Moment?
At 10 a.m. every Sunday, I sat at my work desk.
I faced my MacBook and repeatedly refreshed my browser window.
You see, I was waiting for a blog post — a writing prompt, to be exact— to pop up in my WordPress reader dashboard.
At that time, I’d thought it was the only way I could spark off ‘the muse’.
I’m a freelance writer by trade.
I had a rule: Sunday was reserved for creative work. No copies. No technical write-ups. No blog posts about embarrassing body issues.
Just fun writing.
Then, as one does, I got tired of the prompts and hit the unfollow button.
I ditched my hobby and zoomed in on my day job. I’d figured I could always bounce back to my creative endeavor anytime I want. But I couldn’t.
And it went on for 2 years.
Until I signed up for a MOOC last month.
It was a five-week program offered by the Commonwealth Education Trust. Under the guidance of New Zealand author, David Hill, we wrote essays and learn tricks on how to develop our own unique writing voice.
(I swear, it’s not that pretentious. It just sounds it.)
One of the lessons struck a chord with me and changed my creative life, for good.
Ordinary events can make marvelous stories.
It hit me hard. Because I didn’t think it was possible. As a thriller and mystery fan, I’d thought complex plots were the only way to create a sensational story.
How wrong I was.
Students from across the globe were encouraged to carry a pocket-sized notebook and write down any interesting observation they come across.
My memory was never on the good side, so instead of constantly reminding myself to bring a notebook everywhere I go, I rely on a notes app on my dirt cheap Redmi 2.
(Millennials rarely forget their phones.)
I make it a point to jot down any interesting tidbit I stumble on.
From that day onwards, my observation notes on everyday life slowly built up. And they completely changed my perspective.
#1 A little girl gave an Oscar-worthy fake cry, just so that she could get her dad to buy her a Slurpee.
#3 Two brothers fought at a pharmacy. Parents blamed the older boy, who then stormed off the store muttering, ‘This is shit’ under his breath. I exchanged looks with the cashier.
The point of this exercise — in Hill’s words — is to give me a new idea or use these observations to become a little part of something I’m already writing.
And that, I think, is the brilliance of it. The ideas that I’ve accumulated are chock-full of stories.
To paraphrase from Apirana Taylor, it gave me the key to unlock the door of possibilities. It made me realize what I can do.
It turned out all I had to do was look, listen and borrow.