Inspiration from Public Transportation

April 23, 2009

I’ve started riding the bus over the past few months, and I find it has aided my creativity considerably. First, I have a bit of a walk to the bus stop, and I am pretty much on autopilot in the morning, so the two things together kind of combine to let ideas just kind of seep out from my semi-conscious state. Riding the bus also means I am free to observe – my surroundings, the street scenes as they go past, the people on the bus.

Here’s an example. Here’s some of the characters I “met” or invented, just from today’s trip, alone.

Smells: the man who gets on in the afternoon who smells like machine oil; the man who smells like beer even at 7 a.m., the woman with too much perfume and too much makeup who is beautiful but insecure and looks very afraid.

Conversations overheard: the woman who sits down and promptly picks up her Biblical debate where she left off yesterday. Yesterday’s lesson was “fossils”; today it is Native Americans and the tribes of Israel. Phone conversations overheard: The woman telling her son that he will be OK at school today. People on the bus: The large man who everyday greets each passenger loudly but pleasantly: “Good morning. How’re you today? That’s good.” He’s lonely but his bus-friendliness makes him feel useful and wanted.

Riding the bus beats old-fashioned “people-watching” by a long shot. I’ve been to some people watching spots – and you know, there’s not that much to it. People come, people go, or they talk in hushed tones, or they simply walk past. No good. Riding the bus, I’m with my fellow passengers for 20 minutes to an hour. That’s a lot of time. And because of the close-quarters of the bus, there is plenty of opportunity for observation.

Here’s a few more examples. Sort of “character sketches” – entirely made up, but based upon people and situations observed on trip.

The smooth-faced pasty slightly pudgy certainly-37-year-old-male-virgin who is reading a science fiction book with a barely clad woman and man with a flaming sword on the cover. And then she [another character] realized with horror that he must work at the XXX bookstore.

Young African-American male, 23, talking loud enough for the entire bus to hear, about how he beat charges on marijuana and cocaine possession and a weapons charges, and how he served a 9 mos. sentence and got out 3 months ago. A young African-American woman who is his bus-companion (but not his friend), tells him that he should be more concerned about his girlfriend, wants to know if that doesn’t bother him, tells him he should give it up, tells him Jesus can help him if he wants to start a new life.

A 60 year old man who sits and quivers from some disorder or disease, and is listening to his Ipod.

The young medical student, who is always exhausted and often falls asleep, nearly missing her stop. She has been working nights in the emergency room.

A geeky guy with a long droopy nose who wears an earring in a vain attempt to be cool. He looks ridiculous, especially because he is 48 and has more gray than black hair, all of it growing thin on top.

An 8-month-old boy who is unbelievably cute and adored by all. He is the darling of the bus – except on those occasions when he clears the 6 seats surrounding him because of his stinky diaper.

The Indian couple whose sing-song voices bring to mind curry, incense, and Vishnu.

There’s a few characters there. All based on people I saw or conversations overheard (sometimes not even people I could see), or other thoughts I had as I rode the bus to and from work today. I’m not saying all of these ideas are worth pursuing. Some characters are stronger than others. But the point is – I definitely wouldn’t be having any of these ideas or “meeting” any of these characters if I weren’t riding the bus.

Public transportation isn’t just good for the environment. It’s good for your creativity, too!

© 2009 writingreading

Procrastination: The Confidence Game

April 14, 2009

By now, it’s obvious that one of my favorite topics to write about – because it is so often present in my life – is “writing procrastination.”

This morning I realized that procrastination is really a matter of confidence. When I lack confidence in my work, in my writing – I am likely to procrastinate. When I don’t worry about the outcome of my work, or when I am exceptionally focused, then procrastination is less of a problem.

The good news is, I realized this after reading a chapter I had written, and finding myself surprisingly satisfied with the results! It makes it considerably easier to go back to the keyboard and get to work – whether it is doing further revision, or starting from scratch on the next chapter!

© writingreading, 2009

St. Becca of Tennessee

April 8, 2009

I’m tempted to make this a “Famous Women You’ve Never Heard Of” post – but I think of those entries as primarily historical – and this is a living breathing Saint of a woman – so I’ll have to think of something different to call this post.

The amazing, inspiring, incredible-beyond-words woman I am talking about is Rev. Becca Stevens. She runs essentially a “half-way house” for prostitutes and helps them get out of the trap and tragedy of that kind of life. What is truly amazing is the way that she believes in these women, and the way she sees them as whole people, and ultimately, people worth saving, worth helping, and truly, she devotes her life to helping them.

I learned about her work a few years ago, but periodically, every so often, it comes to my attention again. The story of Magdalene House is shown in a documentary film called “Chances: The Women of Magdalene” and it is a truly inspiring story. Rev. Stevens has also written several books, and the women of Magdalene operate their own business, making home made and natural bath and body products, as a means for personal and spiritual healing for themselves, and sell the products as a way to help support the work of Magdalene House.

I truly believe Rev. Stevens is the “Mother Teresa” of America, and her compassion and dedication to this effort is astonishing and powerful. I rarely think of compassion as being a force of Power but what Stevens does is truly nothing short of miraculous, and is like capturing and bottling the energy of the Sun. It brings Light and Life.

Learn more about Magdalene House, shop Thistle Farms, or just learn more about Rev. Stevens at her blog.

She is an amazing and inspiring woman, regardless of your walk of life, personal background, religion, or beliefs. If the rest of the world had only 25% of her energy and compassion, what a blissful, beautiful place it would be.

© writingreading, 2009