This Week’s Bit of String: A budding writer at the gate
Quite out of breath, I arrived to the gate of my connecting flight to see my family. The airline was, as ever, playing dicey with delays, and I’d almost resigned myself to being stuck in Dublin yet again. But I’d made it through the airport against the odds, and I waited for the imminent boarding a few chairs from a girl and her father.
The girl couldn’t have been more than ten years old. She wore a massive University Roma hoodie, and rainbow-splodged Crocs imitating a tie-dye effect. Giggling, she pointed out to her dad that across and along from us, four men in a row sat the exact same way, right leg crossed over left.
She was right, and justifiably giddy with pride at catching this detail. Then she picked up a magazine and started reading an article about the author Andy Weir, her mouth meticulously forming each word. I felt I was watching a junior author myself, someone who knew that to be one, she needed to take notice of her surroundings, and read up on other writers.
For me, the airport is great for people-watching and inspiration. I wrote down this anecdote immediately, sitting in the gate. Because I scribble every day, and I had many hours of travel to get through, I wasn’t pressuring myself to watch and record everything—just a few key observations.
Places for Writing
Apart from scribbling in my notebook, I spent a lot of time reading while in transit. I’d taken out Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle from the library at work, and enjoyed it tremendously. It opens with the young, hungrily observant narrator sitting with her feet in the kitchen sink, starting her diary by the last daylight.
She writes, “I have found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can be inspiring.”
I love that line on page one. I want to try that this summer: going out of my way to sit in new places and crack open my notebook. Would anyone else like to join me? I may create a writing sampler at the end of the fleeting six weeks, featuring my favourite observations and inspirations.
Now I just need to find some unique places and move out of my comfort zone, which at the moment is the reclining end of my parents’ sofa, in front of a fan. It is challenging how in order to find inspiration, we first have to come up with an original way to put ourselves in its path.
Memories Versus Inspiration
As usual, I planned this post in my head during a morning walk. I was crossing a bridge just downriver from a ruined mill. I stopped and watched a tall grey heron standing perfectly still on a rock. There’s been a lot of rain here in New England, and this river is rushing but not too high.
I remembered that for 11th grade Biology, we were supposed to find a spot outside and visit it regularly throughout the year to record natural changes. I chose the river, coming to the foundation blocks of an old house that once sat high on the bank by the railroad tracks. I stowed a composition notebook and some sketching materials in a plastic bag between the blocks. I sat there and noted which trees changed colour first. But later in the year, severe storms swept my things away. Writing in new places can be quite an adventure.
I considered climbing up and sticking my feet in the kitchen sink here, at the house my parents have lived in more than 30 years. Just thinking about it, memories spout like the tap’s turned on: stowing my kiddo under my arm after each meal, piloting them over to the sink and splashing off the baby food, then carrying them through to the breezeway to play with the wind chimes hanging there. “Bell” became one of their first words.
Or there’s the bathroom sink. The bathroom has a built-in storage unit, with a deep countertop separating us from the mirror, so we used to climb up on it to get a good look. And just because we could. My sister and I would be on and off the counter quite a bit while we brushed our teeth, until Dad got fed up of us thumping down from it and came in to show us how to set ourselves down lightly, “being dignified.” He climbed up himself and disembarked, making dramatically prissy faces for us all the while.
I’m taking care to include memories like this in my daily scribbles, since we can’t assume we’ll keep them forever. But I don’t want to get lost in them either. My New Writing Place Summer Challenge is about noticing the unexpected and finding new ideas. I don’t know if it will work, but I do intend to shake things up a little.
What writing locations can you try? Do you think it makes a difference?