On the train the other day, I sat next to an elderly lady. She was sitting there with her MacBook open on her knees and a few lines of a word document staining the white page. Obviously, I averted my eyes, trying to appear polite and not pry into her thoughts. But, as expected, after a very long two minutes, curiosity got the better of me and so I subtly leaned forward, pretending to look for something in the bag at my feet. My angle now presented me with a perfect position to strain my eyes to the extreme right and see what she was writing… or trying to write. What I could see was a few random words, something like this…
Brick house, four bedrooms and a green garden. Nice big windows, kitchen close to schools. I remember the last bit ‘kitchen close to schools’ lacking any punctuation and chuckled. “Having problems thinking of words?” I asked in a friendly tone. She tilted her head, surprised by my insightful comment. “Well… yes actually.” She responded.
“Ah yes, the dreaded writers block, I know it well,” I lied attempting to find some empathetic common ground. “I write for a living” I added, “and I may be able to give you a few tips… if you’re interested?”
She furrowed her forehead as she assessed the potential threat or perhaps the dangers of engaging in conversation. Then, she sighed, relaxed and gave me a short nod. “I have just been offered a full time job with an estate agency and have been given told to write a description of a house that’s going to be listed tomorrow. I haven’t written creatively for years and I can’t find the words to do the vendor or the agency any justice.”
“Here, may I borrow your laptop?” I asked. She slid it to me and said, please, feel free.”
“Well, this is a trick I’ve developed over the years and it serves me well. Have you seen the house?
“Yes, just this afternoon.” She responded.
“Great!” I grinned back. Now, close your eyes and tell me… What is your first impression as you arrive at the home?”
“Its peaceful and hidden from the road by the lush gardens.” She answers, as I begin to type.
“Walk me through it,” I urged.
“The place is surprisingly big and the entrance is decorated with old stonework. I remember the smell of the flowers by the front door and the sound of a magpie. Inside the sun was pouring in through large timber sliding doors. A fantastic granite and recycled wood kitchen opening to a massive lounge and central stone fireplace. The floor to ceiling windows take in a stunning Lemon myrtle and look out over a sprawling private garden and rock fish pond.”
“Take me through the rest of the house,” I whisper not wishing to disturb her from the moment.
“A long hall leads through to the end of the home where a choice of direction takes you to three bedrooms to the left and a master and ensuite to the right. The master has a private courtyard with a stone water feature.” She suddenly opened her eyes. Oh, I almost missed my stop, she blurted. I clicked save and passed the laptop to her as she stood and hurried off the train, casting a smile and a quick thank you back.
The words I had written in those brief minutes were entirely hers, just as she visualised the house in her own memories. It’s not a trick, It’s just being relaxed enough to see the pictures in your head and tell the story uninhibited. It is how I write. I see the story and tell it as it unfolds in my thoughts. So, next time you get stuck for words, close your eyes and enjoy the moment. Record it on your phone and later, play it back and write it down and I guarantee you will find inspiration in those words.