I was working on an introduction to my latest Book View Cafe story, “Cakewalk,” pointing out that it came from a real life sighting of a woman with a cake on her head, and suddenly I realized something important: I get a lot of my story ideas while commuting.
And not, mind you, while commuting by car. When I commute by car, I listen to the news and scream at the other drivers. Long distance driving is conducive to creative thinking, but rush hour traffic is not.
I get story ideas when I commute via subway. Sometimes the stories come from something I heard on the train itself. Sometimes they’re something I come across while I’m walking to or from the subway. And sometimes — as with “Cakewalk” — they involve something I first noticed on the escalator.
I’ve even got some unfinished ideas that started on the subway, triggered by things like power outages, and the crazy guy who sings hymns, and panhandlers who change cars at each stop. There’s a wealth of material.
Only I not only no longer have a commute — in my new job, I work from home — but I now live in a city without a subway. In fact, while there’s decent bus service, and lots of people ride bicycles (in spite of the challenging hills), Austin is a city designed around the automobile. So even when I need to run errands, I do it by car.
I’ve obviously got to find a new way to generate ideas. Hmm.
You know, I used to get lots of ideas from music. And if there’s one thing you can do in Austin better than almost anyplace else on the planet, it’s hear live music.
Maybe I just need to start going to clubs.
My story, “The English Major’s Revenge,” is now up on Breves no tan breves in Spanish as “Verdes en la Casa Blanca.” I changed the name in consultation with the editor because I didn’t think the idea that English majors were unemployable would make sense in a Spanish-speaking country. (Since I’ve been asked what the title means by U.S. readers, perhaps I should change the English name to “Greens in the White House” as well.”)