Yes, it's also a popular interview question, and I always try to explain my "everywhere" answer. This morning, as I sit in my kitchen, eating my breakfast (and remembering I forgot to write a post yesterday--oops), I looked out my window at my neighbor's US flag.
They have a very nice flag pole in their backyard--almost as tall as their house--but the flag is…sad. The stripes are so faded as to be nearly invisible and the entire thing looks more like someone strung up an old flag-style beach towel rather than a proper flag. (During recent visits, both my parents pointed out the flag, which is probably why it got more of my notice today than other days.) But as I sit here, watching it whip back and forth in the wind, proudly snapping like any other flag, it hit me that the damn thing has to have a story.
You see, the neighbors that live there are not the type to leave it out for no reason. They tend their garden daily. Their house is one of the best kept in the neighborhood (they are the original owners--which means they've been here for 40+ years). In short, there is no way they'd leave a dillapidated flag flying if it didn't hold significance.
And so I started subconsciously making up the story behind that faded rectangle of fabric. (Honestly, I started making up a few because the first ones that popped into my head were horribly tragic and sad.) But I think the one I'd go with if I ever wrote it would be the one about the guy who left behind a girl when he went off to war. Unbeknownst to him… she was pregnant. During a battle, another soldier (probably they started out hating each other, but became grudging friends over time) did something heroic to save his life…losing his own in the process. Our soldier makes it home after his tour, determined to hunt down the girl, only to find out about their child…
You get the idea. Oh, and the flag? Somehow it came from the frenemy who saved his life, the one without which he never would have refound his true love and never have met his child. And that's why it's flying every day, no matter how faded or sad it is.
So yeah. Inspiration is truly everywhere. In the song you hear a random snippet of, in the conversation between strangers, in the email you get from some jerk on a dating site, and in the view you see out your window every day.
I was going to end with a quote that I love, but then I discovered it was said by an author who I refuse to promote because I know and hate his politics. So we'll go with this one instead (he might be an ass too, but I don't know so I feel safer with it…)
If you look at anything long enough, say just that wall in front of you -- it will come out of that wall.
- Anton Chekhov
So stare at your wall, take a walk, talk to a stranger, but find your story out there. Find one every day. That way when the time comes to write, you have a bevy of them to sift through looking for the best one.
(Also, this is my last post before the holiday hiatus here at the ELEW. So I'd like to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season. Catch you in the new year!)