When I speak with young writers, this is the first thing I tell them.
It’s true that you won’t be bored and that fact has gotten me through standing in a hundred lines, waiting for the gas tank to fill, food to be served and many, many other potentially boring situations. I love snippets of conversation that don’t make a lot of sense but can be used in stories.
An example of this was an overheard scrap of conversation on the Jazz Cruise in early February of this year. I had just settled myself in a sunny deck chair at poolside and opened my book when the man next to me turned to his wife and said, “I don’t give a fuck what it is. I’m not codependent like you are.” And she answered: “All right.” If my husband ever said something like that to me, I’d be checking out divorce attorneys, but all judgement aside, you bet I’ll use that interchange in a story one of these days!
The rest of my nuggets of wisdom to young authors:
*Carry either a little notebook with you or use the Notes page on your cell phone to write down anything that comes to mind that would make a good element of a story. You think you’ll remember it but you won’t, so write it down.
*Listen in on everyone’s conversations—you can make up stories about them later. Notice what they’re wearing and how they talk. Write down descriptions of things you see that will add detail and color to your stories. Example: when the teacher writes on the blackboard, her arm jiggles.
*Don’t use your stories as weapons against people who have made you angry. Stories don’t have to be nice but they don’t need to be cruel to real people. This is my opinion—I really hurt my mother’s feelings once because of the way I portrayed her in a story. There was no way to take it back.
*Set a goal of writing something—even three sentences—every day. It will keep the stories alive in your imagination. If you have a separate space you can use for writing, that’s good but it’s very useful to be able to write under any conditions so don’t be fussy. And don’t criticize yourself as you go along. Just write! You’ll be surprised at how much you can get out of something you’ve written earlier that you thought was dreadful at the time. There’s always something there to work with.
Photo credit: (https://secure.flickr.com/photos/slava/496607907/) [CC-BY-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons