After I asked my creative nonfiction students to post what they would like to cover in the class over the remaining weeks, nearly 2/3rds of them posted, “How to come up with ideas.”
I was surprised because they've been coming up with interesting ideas all term. But I realized that they feel like it’s a struggle. They’re not sure how to go about it. It’s a common problem among writers who are starting out.
I told them that ideas don’t have to come from dramatic, unusual, or life-changing events. Most come from everyday life. From just being in the world doing what you usually do. That ideas lie around every corner. Every encounter, every thought, has the potential to grow into a story. I said that when you’ve been writing for awhile, you start seeing ideas everywhere, all the time. That at some point you have so many ideas you want to clap your hands over your ears and shout “Stop!” I don’t think they believed me.
To show them this, I wrote down several ideas that came to me yesterday—a single, very ordinary day. Here’s what I wrote:
In the morning, I got a vaccination for shingles. I’d been advised by my doctor to get one, but that wasn’t the real reason I was doing it. I got one because I remember my mother having shingles, how utterly miserable she was with it. And not just miserable, but mean.
I thought about how 90% of the time my mom was the sweetest, most generous person on Earth, but when she was stressed about something, she made a 180-degree turn and became downright cruel, and how unkind she was to me when she had shingles.
My usually sweet mother’s startling tendency to turn on me when she was upset.
How we can think we’re making a decision—even one about our health—from a place of reason and common sense, but we’re really making it because our mother hurt our feelings 25 years ago.
As I was getting ready for work, I realized I was dressed almost exactly the same way I used to dress in the 60s. The pants were different (skinny jeans rather than bell bottoms), and the jewelry was nicer. But everything else—the dangly earrings, the scarf tied around my head, the chunky bracelets, Indian shirt, boots—was the same. Even my hair style—long and wavy—hadn’t changed. I began to wonder if I wasn’t getting a little old to be dressing the same way I did when I was 20.
Should women worry about dressing their age or just dress the way they want?
How a person’s tastes can stay the same as decades come and go.
Why I’ve always been attracted to Bohemian, hippie fashion.
Reread an essay “Instead of the Rat Pack” by Gwendolyn Knapp for my creative nonfiction class. The author writes about how her grandmother would rescue baby squirrels and nurse them with doll baby bottles. It made me think of the lady in my town when I was growing up who rescued baby squirrels and nursed them at her breast.
The lady in my town who breast-fed baby squirrels.
It’s been snowing, even though it’s April. It’s supposed to snow all day today and all day tomorrow—inches and inches of snow.
How it feels waiting for spring.
How differently I feel about snow at different times of the year (First snow: fresh and new. Christmas Eve snow: lovely. Valentine’s Day snow: romantic. March snow: annoying and tiresome. April snow: You’ve got to be kidding.)
See? It’s easy. Nothing special going on here. Just life.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...