For a class assignment, we read a short story by Paul Auster titled “City of Glass.” There were so many nuggets throughout the story to where I found myself posting sticky notes page after page. One passage in particular resonated with me as it pertains to writing:
“My work is very simple. I have come to New York because it is the most forlorn of places, the most abject. The brokenness is everywhere, the disarray is universal. You have only to open your eyes to see it. The broken people, the broken things, the broken thoughts… I find the streets an endless source of material, an inexhaustible storehouse of shattered things. Each day I go out with my bag and collect objects that seem worthy of investigation.”
On a sticky note I wrote, How I create stories: I go out and collect “life” as sources of material. Each day I leave the house, I come home with an invisible bag full of material. I eavesdrop on conversations as I walk the school campus. I watch how people interact with familiar people and strangers as I stroll the aisles of the grocery store. I observe pedestrians in the street as I drive to and fro.
I collect my observations and make mental notes to retrieve when I sit down to write. I take those tiny pieces of information and let them tell a story. It may not be the story that took place upon collection, but it is the story that unfolds when words move across the page.
As Auster wrote, “brokenness is everywhere.” If one leaves the house and opens his eyes and ears, he will find so much to be observed and heard. There are broken people, broken things, broken thoughts. But there is also happiness, love, peace, infatuation, anger. There are myriad situations taking place every second. These experiences are happening all around us. These are sources of material for which to write from. To create with. To learn and grow from. To better lives with.
The source of material is there; it is everywhere. One must simply be looking. One must be listening. And one must sit with the information collected and let the story take a life of its own. There is more than enough to write about.
Open your eyes. What do you see?
Open your ears. What do you hear?
Take your bag with you the next time you leave the house to see what truths you can collect and put on the page.