ESSAY-In Which a Mundane Writing Session at a Bagel Store in Vermont Becomes an Illustration of Where I Get My Ideas (at Least Where I got My Idea for This Blog Post, if Nothing Else)
I am in a bagel shop in Burlington, Vermont. Here is what is on the table: my microtop (Bluetooth keyboard, iPhone stand, and iPhone, with which I took the picture above), the pouch that holds my Bluetooth keyboard (which also contains a portable charger for my iPhone, a cable to attach this to my iPhone, a cable to attach the charger to a wall outlet, an AC plug for these cables into which I can plug the USB side of the cables, and four AA batteries for the keyboard, which takes two…I like to have a backup), five crumpled napkins, a cup of coffee, a half eaten cinnamon raisin bagel, and the book “Show Your Work,” by Austin Kleon.
Right now, I churn out words, just as I’m doing now. This is the kind of writing I do most of the time, in fact. Just one word after another, without much direction, just meandering here and there.
I write about one random thing or another.
When I write like this, I often feel as if I write for this newspaper called, I don’t know, The Derek Times or The Derek Post or The Derek Picayune or something.
I have this editorial meeting in my head:
“So Derek,” Editor in Chief Derek says to Writer Derek, “what stories to you have?”
“Well,” Writer Derek says, “um….I sat in a bagel store in Vermont today and wrote this rambling series of sentences.”
Editor in Chief Derek scratches his chin and looks down, thoughtfully.
“Hmmm,” Editor in Chief Derek says. “Maybe you could punch it up with some touching passages about how you had to quit karate because of your arthritic knees, and now study yoga. It allows you to meditate on how we are all mortal, and that we must except the wearing down of our bodies as part of what it is to be alive.”
Writer Derek contemplates this.
“Perhaps I could also sort of portray the whole writing in the bagel store thing as a sort of metaphor for the quiet heroism of not going quietly into the night. I could even incorporate the whole playing at open mikes as an inspiring meditation on how it is never too late to undertake artistic pursuits.”
“You're onto something, I think,” says Editor in Chief Derek.
“Is it okay if I include this little thing that just happened?” says Writer Derek. “There’s this couple with a little kid, maybe two or three, at the table next to me, and the kid was asking what I was doing. I told him I was writing. His parents smiled, because it may very well have been the first time that their kid asked about what someone else was doing; and if it wasn't the first time, the first time couldn't have happened much earlier than today, being that the kid is, you know, maybe two or three, four tops.”
“Anyway,” continues Writer Derek, “it made me think about how my friend Tom—who I’m staying with up here in Vermont—talks about how having a kid who’s two or three is all about witnessing these miniature miracles at this age, where suddenly, they’re saying a word that they weren’t saying the day before, and the parent realizes that there’s just all this new stuff going on every day, that they’re growing every moment, and that there’s always stuff there that wasn’t there the moment before.”
Writer Derek keeps going, in that way of someone who writes and realizes he may be onto something.
“I was also thinking that I could write about how I struck up a conversation with the folks next to me about this, and they just opened up, so incredibly proud of their kid, suddenly so eager to talk about this.”
Writer Derek then shares some choice quotes from this little kid’s parents, starting with his mother:
“I mean, just last week, he said ‘because,’” (the kid’s mother was clearly so proud of him when she said this), “and it just blew my mind, and I had to text him (her husband) about it, because it was just so awesome.”
And then, from his dad:
“And now we’ve got this one (he reached down and picked up one of those basket baby holders, showing me that this was a family not of three, but of four), so now we’re going through all the stuff we went through with this guy (here he pointed to his older son, wearing a Yankees cap here in New England).”
So now Writer Derek emerges from this story about talking to this young couple at the bagel store, and says:
“What I’m saying is, besides being this really sweet story about this young couple and their kids…”
“Did you get a picture,” asks Editor in Chief Derek.
“Nah,” says Writer Derek, “didn’t want to creep them out. We just had such a nice conversation, and it wrapped up with the father asking if I could show his kid my Clik magnetic reading glasses. So nice. As it is, I gave them the address of my blog.”
“Good thinking,” says Editor in Chief Derek.
“Thanks,” says Writer Derek. “Anyway, I was just thinking that it can also work as a meditation about how, so often, you can start off writing with absolutely no idea about what you’re going to write about, and something can come along that gives you this great idea for a blog post, story, or song lyric.”
Editor in Chief leans back in his chair, and smiles.
“I like it,” he says, “run it.”
...and that's why I write every day. There's always a chance something will come your way.
By the way, to that nice young couple with the thoroughly adorable kids: thanks, I owe you one.