Musings and Personal · Writing

How Real Life Influences Writing

I’ve been noticing everyday things that have in turn created stories in my mind.

And, aside from my memoir, I’ve been thinking about how real life influences writing.

Many of my stories are inspired by fantasies of lives I wanted to live. Others are triggered by seeing something that takes my brain on a wild scavenger hunt to dig up details about what I’ve seen, and then turn it into a story.


When I was driving home the other week, I saw a man on the side of the road. He was sitting on one of those lush patches businesses pay to overwater so they’re bright green, created to divide the business complex from the sidewalk and street.

He had white, messy hair and a backpack sitting next to him. I thought perhaps he was homeless. What brought this man from His Life to This Life?

My writing brain kicked into overdrive and I began imaging things that brought this man to his current situation. Perhaps it would make a good short story or piece of flash fiction?

Then, as I passed him, all thoughts of my story halted.

I had misjudged what I’d seen from a distance.

  • He wasn’t a man but a middle-aged woman.
  • Her hair wasn’t messy, in the traditional sense. It looked like she tried to blow out curls, which didn’t quite work, and she was left with a puffy head of hair reminiscent of the eighties.
  • Her clothes were clean and in good condition.

My entire story changed.


I began to wonder why this woman was sitting on the side of the road. Her presence made sense when I thought she (he) was homeless. It made sense to see a homeless person sitting with a backpack on the side of the road, no destination in mind, nowhere else to go. Why wouldn’t he sit down on the side of a busy street in the grass?

But what about her story? Was it something as dramatic as leaving an abusive relationship? Or something is bland as getting tired on her walk and choosing this place to sit down?

Was she a writer like me, looking for a good story? Perhaps her backpack contained a notebook and pen, but she hadn’t pulled it out yet.

Did she see me driving in my dusty Mazda 5 and wonder about my story?

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