I write in my head a lot, mostly when I’m driving. I hear a phrase in the lyrics of the music I’m listening to and an idea is born. I try to keep them in my head until I get to my destination and put them in notes in my phone. If you could see into my head it probably looks like a bowl full of fortune cookie size bits of paper with writing prompts on them.
Yesterday, as I was thinking about the death of a friend’s mother and I suddenly remembered the circumstances of my own mother’s death, a piece of that night I hadn’t thought much about until yesterday. My niece had moved mother to a house she was renting at the time where she was receiving hospice care. The upstairs room in which Mother died was the same room a boyfriend I had in seventh grade had hung himself many years after junior high. That kind of smacked me in the face, seemed like there could be a lot to unpack there. In the seventh grade circa 1958 we called it “going together”, this mostly consisted of walking around the halls between classes and holding hands. I don’t remember ever seeing him outside of school or any conversations we might have had. But he was tall, dark, and handsome. I’m sure we looked quite odd together as I had probably reached my full “height” of five feet and no inches. I had mostly forgotten about him and moved on to shorter pastures until my niece told me of his fate. I still can’t reconcile that boy I knew and how he ended his life.
I came up with one of my favorite characters for my novel Marigolds in Boxes. I was listening to Hozier’s song “Take Me to Church”, in which he sings that’s a fine looking high horse. And, just like that, High Horse Harry was born.
Last week at the Rufus Wainwright concert his sister, Lucy Wainwright Roche opened for him. She’s also a talented singer/songwriter. One of her songs had the phrase perfect fireworks. I don’t know where or when I’ll use it, but I will find a place for it one day, giving her full credit, of course.
Inspiration from the poem “Great Sleeps I Have Known” by Robin Becker came in the form of the line where I saw a bird fly from a monk’s mouth for my novel Flight Plan about escape from abuse and shape shifting.
There have been times when a character has awakened me from a sound sleep. I had to immediately get up and write about that character so he or she would let me get back to sleep. That is how Miss Mayrose Mayhern was born. I wrote her in great detail and let her sit for many years, not quite sure what to do with her until I began writing Marigold in Boxes and knew she would be the perfect foil for the affable Milton Matthews.
Every week I’m privileged to sit in a circle with amazing women writers and take read back lines as we read our words to each other. I have notebooks full of them that I can tap into when the muse is being illusive. I always write down whose line it is, because they deserve full credit also.
We never know where writing ideas will come from. What we need to do is to be alert enough to realize that inspiration is everywhere. We simply have to notice it. It’s not rocket science, but it is kind of magical. I’ve learned through my own writing and listening to the words of others that nothing is too small to write about. Stories are out there waiting for us. That’s how I found my topic for today’s post. Who knew?
Rebekah Spivey for The Poplar Grove Muse