I’m reading You Can’t Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind. I’ve read what feels like volumes of advice about writing, but this is the first time I’ve given thoughtful action to what I’ve read.
Gutkind blocks out several exercises: short, easy-to-practice “assignments” intended to get a writer going. One of my favorites is one that I put into practice earlier today: Go to a favorite coffee shop (I’m paraphrasing here) with laptop or pen and paper. Go several days in a row. Spend an hour watching, listening, taking notes.
I did just this earlier today. Nina’s in St. Paul was crowded, thus giving me the anonymity I needed to watch and listen. Here are the notes I took:
Thump of a bass on the sound system; clash of dishes behind a swinging door; muted mumble of voices, primarily female. Woman with beautiful white hair styled in a pageboy–comfortable in her own body in a way that seems to come with age. She and her friend laugh often and heartily, lean back, grin….
“…comfortable in her own skin in a way that seems to come with age” is the phrase that grabbed me. Where did that come from? I’m certain I never would have created it if I hadn’t tried Gutkind’s exercise.
If you’re a creative nonfiction writer, there are many other reasons to like this book. It’s one that’s well worth keeping on hand.
I’d love to hear what bastes your roast. Where do your ideas come from?