The world is a curious and wonderful place. It can be so easy to forget this during the bustle of daily life. I was reminded recently that there’s writing inspiration in even the most mundane situations, if only we could pause and pay attention. And so I set myself a challenge: find five juicy writing ideas in one ordinary day.
My chosen day was Saturday, 4 November. To give myself a head start, I did some preparation the night before. Knowing my tendency to get swept away by events, I wanted some structure. I took out my small notebook (one that I can carry around in my pocket) and divided my Saturday into sections based on what I knew I would be doing:
- Getting up
- Morning with my daughter & husband
- Afternoon with my daughter & husband
- Firework display
- Meal with family
My plan was to note down at least one writing idea under each heading. Hopefully, by the time I curled up in bed that Saturday night, there would be – at the very least – seven ideas simmering in my notebook.
Anything that caught my attention as quirky, interesting or unusual would get included. I wasn’t looking for ideas I thought other people would like, or that other writers might write about; I would follow my instincts and note down anything that spoke to me.
Living in the moment
It felt like I was going on a treasure hunt (which, in a way, I was). On the Saturday, I kept my notebook close to me. While at home, I left it on the side in a prominent position – a visual reminder to think about writing. When we were out, I kept it in my pocket.
As I explored my world on the hunt for writing inspiration, I tried to use all my senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, taste. And also my emotions. If a situation evoked strong feelings, I wrote it down. Or if I found myself feeling curious about an experience or idea, I wrote it down. If my intuition, in any way, told me I was onto something – even if I wasn’t quite sure what – I wrote it down.
Of course, it wasn’t realistic to expect I’d have my notebook in hand the whole time. I knew I’d be busy living in the moment, living life, not always thinking about writing ideas. That was fine. I updated my notepad as often as I remembered. I made mental notes when I wasn’t able to make physical ones, and then as I lay in bed that night I filled in extra details.
Developing the writing ideas
By the end of the day, I had twelve writing ideas to play with. A few of them were already on their way to being fully fledged pieces of creative writing, complete with sensory detail, emotion and imagery. Those ideas had caught my attention with the most force. They kept coming back to me throughout the day, always hovering just on the edge of my consciousness.
Quite a few of the notes I’d made were just impressions, fleeting and unformed. Some of the ideas didn’t excite me once I looked at them for a second time. They were put to one side.
Others needed to be developed before I could tell if they were really any good. What makes writing ideas ‘good’, exactly? For me, they’re the ones that get me writing enthusiastically. They draw me in, make me think, compel me to put pen to paper.
For the ideas I wasn’t sure about, I turned to a fresh page in my notebook and jotted down any thoughts, emotions, words and phrases that came to mind. As I wrote, I got a clearer picture of how the writing ideas might develop. Some fizzled and died fairly quickly. Two passed the test, igniting a spark within me that made me want to explore them further.
For a writing idea to be truly juicy, I believe it needs to resonate with the heart as well as the mind. Our hearts will give us the depth, the insight and the motivation we need as we write. I allowed myself to be led by my feelings as I narrowed down my list of ideas.
The final five
The aim of my challenge was find five juicy writing ideas. Out of my original twelve, here are the ones that made the final cut:
Mummy Gets A Lie In
I woke up on the Saturday morning in a big, cosy bed with acres of space around me. Birds chirping, a fresh breeze drifting through the window. My husband had taken the early shift and was in the living room with our little girl. I could hear their laughter and play. It was a wonderful moment, full of peace and the promise of a fun day. I wanted to capture it in a poem.
Browsing through social media, I came across a couple of stories that particularly shook me. Sad stories of suffering and premature death. It doesn’t take long to come across tales like these online. There are so many of them bombarding us it gets overwhelming. What are we supposed to do? We can’t help everyone. What if we could ‘download’ all that emotion, like a computer? I felt myself grappling with these ideas and wanted to explore them further.
Our Daily Bread
Lunchtime, and I found myself reflecting on the humble loaf of bread. In fact, I’d been doing something similar with friends recently, examining the symbol of bread within Christianity. It’s a rich topic and one I wanted to write about.
Nothing But Murky Water
I can’t remember what sparked it now, but I found myself thinking back to when I was travelling. I was in Mexico, waiting at a ferry terminal with a friend. The hours stretched ahead of us. There was a tiny strip of beach and I stood in the sea, the water coming half way up my shins. It seemed murky and lifeless at first, but as I stared it came alive, fish twitching around my legs. They multiplied until they were everywhere. Years later, I felt that sense of awakening once again.
On the Saturday evening, I watched a firework display with family. We lit sparklers afterwards – a new experience for my daughter. I saw the delight on her face as we gaily waved the little stars in our hands, their light streaking through the darkness. She laughed and it was infectious. Our faces lit up. What did it look like from her point of view? I wanted to write and find out.
After just one day of being open to inspiration, I had five exciting ideas to play with. They were born out of my own life and they spoke to my heart. If even one of them turns into a piece that is satisfying and fun to write, then I’ll be happy.
As a bonus, I found myself paying attention to the detail in my life. My writing treasure hunt turned into a form of mindfulness. And I’m so pleased it did. The memories from that day are vivid and bold in my mind. They will last for a long time to come.
Why not challenge yourself to find some juicy ideas? I hope you have fun giving this a try. If you’d like to explore other sources of inspiration, take a look at the writing ideas section on this blog.