Thursday, 19 April 2012

Q is for Queueing

Time for Q in my A-Z series "26 Things that Made Me a Writer".

One of the things that writers need to learn is to pick up inspiration from anywhere. We spend a pretty significant part of our lives standing in queues - in the post office, supermarket, airport, chip shop. Why not make the best use of our time and see if we can overhear some great new ideas?

I'll share one that springs to mind. I was waiting to pick up my stepdaughter from Girls' Brigade when I heard one of the other dads talking about how they had been on holiday and his older daughter had broken her leg on the first day.

In my mind I turned this into a story of a rebellious, sulky teen who spends as much time avoiding her family as possible, even on holiday, but when she breaks her leg while camping she has to accept their help and they all learn to get on. I didn't finish it as it was a bit too "happy-happy" for me, but I still think it was a good idea.

You have to have a sifting mind to do this. It's a bit like panning for gold, you're always looking for that one little nugget. There are a lot of older citizens in my town so I hear a lot of talk about various medical ailments which I don't find interesting. Then again, maybe I'm not being openminded enough.

What about you? Have you picked up any great ideas while waiting in a queue somewhere?

26 comments:

Trisha said...

I picked up what I think was a great idea while walking back to my car...saw a car that had clearly been stolen and had been in the parking lot for a few days. It inspired me to write a little murder mystery :)

Damyanti said...

I once wrote a short story based on a long wait at the bus queue...

Look forward to the rest of your challenge run…can’t believe we’ve had 16 days already!
--Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

Twitter: @AprilA2Z
#atozchallenge

Cynthia said...

I'm not a big fan of waiting in lines, but when I have to be in one, I might sometimes find myself noticing details about the other people. Sometimes when I'm waiting in line at the grocery store, I might take note of what the person in front of me has in their cart- whether it's cases and cases of beer or flowers or a healthy spread of produce, I find I can get ideas pertaining to character this way.

Lynda R Young said...

For me ideas usually come at the most inconvenient time--usually when I can't write them down ;)

MOV said...

Nick,

I never pick up good ideas waiting in line, mostly because I don't wait in line (I cut to the front-- I've found it's sooooo much faster!!! Sure, other people get upset, but they'll get over it ...).

I do, however, get great ideas when driving. Especially on the freeway at high speeds when it is not convenient to grab a notepad and pen from my glove compartment and jot down my idea. So I've taken to chanting it: 4 dogs in a car, 4 dogs in a car, 4 dogs in a car, all the way until I get home and then have no idea anymore why that was even remotely funny or what my story was going to be.

I love inspiration!

best,
MOV

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I need to be more observant because I'm usually just grumbling that I'm standing in line.

Nick Wilford said...

Argh, I typed replies to these then went and lost the darn connection! Plus Blogger has lost one of my comments which is in my email but not here. Hmmm...

Trisha - Sounds interesting! Hope the real story was not as sinister.

Damyanti - Oops, forgot bus queues!

Cynthia - I do that too. I've always liked people watching.

Lynda - I write them down later. I think if I stood transcribing people's conversations they might not take kindly to it!

MOV - I want to know more about the 4 dogs story! Hope they were going somewhere nice.

Alex - I do that too, but I try to think of it as an opportunity!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I've written down lines/conversations I've overheard while in line and I've also made notes about things I've seen, etc.

Sometimes I just like to play "What if?" - "What if that person just bought the winning lottery ticket?" "What if that person is about to rob the store with a toy gun?"

Deana said...

I love doing this. I swear people must think I'm nuts or a stalker sometimes because I love to observe and gather ideas for stories:)

L.G.Smith said...

Ha! Yes, I eavesdrop while in a queue. Especially fertile ground for stories if you have a pair of older ladies (or men) in front of you who like to gossip. :)

rhi said...

Queues cause me anxiety, so I tend to listen to music. I have written a few poems waiting in queues though.

The Beans said...

Living in the States, waiting in a chip shop queue just doesn't happen (because they are non-existent), but I have had flashing bits of inspiration come to me when I participate in mundane tasks that allow my mind to wander.

On second thought, maybe I should go stand in a McDonald's for a while. The smell of crackly grease may jog my creative synapses to work.

-Barb the French Bean

M.J. Fifield said...

Yes, I have. I usually get conversation starters out of it.

Shelley Sly said...

That's neat how you got that story idea. I've gotten ideas in a queue ("in line", as we say in the US), as well as other unexpected times: while driving, while waiting in a doctor's office, and while taking walks around the neighborhood.

Mina Burrows said...

Lots of times. I can't shut the brain off when that happens. Oh, well. :)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I pick up ideas everywhere. One of them was from seeing a girl carrying a bag of apples to her car at the store. I thought, what if that girl got attacked by a mugger or something and hit him with her bag of apples. I actually did write it into one of my books. ;)

Leigh Covington said...

I love this! SO TRUE! We really can find inspiration anywhere and this is the perfect example. Also helps waiting in line so much more fun! :)

Jessica Salyer said...

What's a chip shop and Girls' Brigade?

C.B. Wentworth said...

I get some great ideas standing in line at the coffee shop. The people watching is spectacular, so there is always a ready made character. :-)

Elise Fallson said...

What's a queue? :P

I cannot recall ever getting inspired while standing in line...but soon I'll have to do exactly that at the airport. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to pick up on some inspiration while waiting at the baggage claim...

Chuck said...

Funny you mention this Nick...I listen to people all the time while standing in line wherever it may be. You just never know what you're going to hear. I have gotten some previous post ideas from thing I have heard or seen while in line. Glad to see I'm not the crazy one!

Botanist said...

I'm almost the complete opposite!

I draw inspiration from anything at any time, but usually it lurks in my subconscious for a while before it lets me know it's there.

This means that quiet, introspective, time is needed for my creative process. Queues (or line-ups for the North Americans here) are ideal for me, not to observe the outside world, but to observe my inner world at work.

Nick Wilford said...

Madeline - What if is always good to do.

Deana - I know, it must seem a bit weird!

L.G. - Plenty of older ladies and men where I live!

Rhi - Writing poetry is a good use of the time.

Barb - There's lots of grease in my local chip shop!

M.J. - Hmm, I've never struck up a conversation with someone in a queue, except if I have my kid with me (which is usually) and they have a kid too, you can get talking that way.

Shelley - Yeah, any time when my mind is free to wander is good.

Mina - Wish I could shut mine off sometimes!

Nick Wilford said...

Chantele - Haha, that's good. Glad you could use it!

Leigh - Yeah, it does make it fun!

Jessica - A chip shop is a takeaway place where you can get fish and chips (fries). Girls' Brigade is an organisation a bit like Scouts (there's a boys' one too).

C.B. - People watching is good, also if you get a window seat and watch them all go by!

Elise - A queue is a line! Think queue is the same in French, not sure though...

Ask people about their holiday plans. I once got a story idea from sitting across from three elderly siblings in the departure lounge.

Chuck - Just call us all crazy!

Botanist - Yeah, sometimes I'm so busy mulling over my WIP that I don't hear others around me.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick .. all the time I listen out - if it's nebulous .. I block it out. Two of the elderly residents at the Nursing Centre suggested a castle to me .. they went in .. and they're so chuffed to see what I've written and to read the comments - I printed both out for them. K & O were the letters ..

Always things going on .. oh yes the 'wretched' gulls on the lawn canoodling and wanting to have a nest in a round bird-bath .. so I have to dig out the sticks, moss etc!! Then they stand in it up to their webfeet in water!! Doesn't anyone tell them about the foxes?!

Cheers Hilary

Nick Wilford said...

Hilary - Lovely to hear that the residents could help out with suggestions for the blog.