In my previous articles, I’ve shared how you can create a writing life in your 60s and beyond. My intention now is to inspire you by providing some starting points for deciding what to write.
Are you wondering how to begin? Are you asking yourself if you even have anything interesting to say? I want to model for you how something ordinary can become inspiration for your creative writing.
Your life story is in everything that you see and do. For example, I used “gardening” as the starting point for a personal essay.
For me, gardening offers experiences just asking to be described. The act of gardening touches the physical senses but also emotional and spiritual senses as well. You can tell a story of your life through the multi-faceted lens of gardening. Here are some tips for transforming the gardening experience into a story.
Be as specific and descriptive as possible. It’s not the bird; it’s the brown sparrow. It’s not an old car, it’s the vintage black Ford.
Explore what you feel physically when you step into the garden. Is your skin sun-kissed by the warmth of the sun? Is it a cloudy day good for weeding? Does that feel cool on your arms? Do you want to put on a cozy sweater? Does the air feel hot and dry or humid and thick? Do your knees hurt? Does your body feel strong?
What do you see when you start gardening? Are your eyes drawn to green shoots pushing up through the rich soil? Or maybe you see the hard cracked earth? Are there sweet red ladybugs or colorful butterflies? Does what you see in your garden bring back a memory?
What do you hear when you begin your gardening? Are there sounds of someone mowing their lawn down the street? Can you hear children playing? Does the sound of birds singing make you smile? Do you hear traffic, car horns or sirens? Do you tune out the sounds around you or are they part of your gardening?
Don’t forget the power of fragrance. What are the smells in the garden? Does the soil tickle your nostrils with a decaying earth kind of smell? Are there sweet smells of flowers near by? Are you aware of the aroma of sun-block on your skin?
What about tastes? I have a barrel full of snap peas in my garden that never make it to the table in my house. Why? Because I pop them into my mouth while I am working. Maybe you carry lemon water or iced ginger tea into your garden. Describing the sensation of drinking something refreshing as you work. It can inspire creativity.
What does gardening make you think about? What is your own personal psycho-spiritual philosophy about gardening? I’ve had periods in my life where it felt like all I was doing was pulling weeds.
Often I’ve thought about how things struggle to grow from the dark earth. I’ve thought about how new growth pushes its way to the light. Life’s a lot like that. There’s the big push, the struggle and eventually we find the light. That’s worth writing about!
What memories rise to greet you when you garden? Does gardening remind you of someone, or of someplace? Here’s an example of a memory for me.
“I often think about my grandmother Julia when I am in the garden. She braided her long white hair and twisted it into a bun at the nape of her neck. Wisps and strands would dance around her face in the afternoon sun. Around her fenced plot of land that grew berries, herbs and vegetables. She placed little plastic and porcelain statues of Mary, Jesus and St. Francis. Gardening was for her, synonymous with prayer and her garden was filled with altars tucked between rows tomatoes.”
The tips I have listed are short writing prompts that will help you construct an extraordinary story. You might ask how can such common things be extraordinary. My answer is this. All life lived fully and gratefully is extraordinary.
To capture it through your written words is to create a gift for posterity. It shares something special with the people who know something of how you view life and the world. This is true even if it is just a touchstone for your own life and not for anyone else to see. Your words can provide a life map of the places the journey has taken you.
In this piece I have used the example of gardening as a starting point for creative writing. You could easily translate this other “ordinary” life activities. For example, you could write about sewing or cooking or whatever interests you.
I hope my own experience provides you with a guide for using your daily life as inspiration for creative writing.
What day-to-day life experiences inspire your creative writing? Are you inspired by working in the garden? Please join the conversation and share your comments.
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