The Games We Play

13 Sep

When I was a kid, we played all kinds of playground games. Red Light, Green Light, Simon Says, Kick the Can, and Mother May I? All games most of us have played and still do in our writing life. My favorite one is Mother May I (the rest of them deserve their own blog). The good news is you’re Mother. Unfortunately, that’s also the bad news.

Mother, may I write? Yes. All you need to do is prepare. Unfortunately and fortunately, there are all those little irritants like kids (no matter what the age), a husband, pets, or a boss out there just waiting to chip off chunks of your precious time. Think of them as opportunities to be creative. Not a problem…that’s your business. When you have to run errands, stick a notebook in your purse or car. I figure that’s what that little pocket’s for on the inside of the door. It sure isn’t big enough to hold much else. When you’re waiting for the doctor, dentist, or teacher’s meeting, jot down ideas, a few lines of dialogue, or a description. Even if you never use it, it’s good practice.

Mother, may I study my craft? You betcha. When you’re out, notice people. How they react to others, quirky things they do, their body language and speech patterns. When someone interesting comes along, do not follow them around taking notes. The police will be called and you will be in trouble. Instead, make a note that will bring them back to mind. It’s cheaper than bail, and no one looks good in a mug shot.

Restaurants are great places to watch people. Eaters do very interesting things. Hey, a great idea for another blog. See how that works?

Working retail is invaluable when studying craft. You can tell a lot about someone by the way they leave a dressing room, or the way they treat the clerk. A word to the wise, don’t be
rude to an “associate” in a store. You never know which one is a school teacher (maybe your child’s next year), a U.S. Marshall who will leak your WITSEC location, a police officer who will remember you and give you a ticket, or a writer who will use you in the pages of a book. I’ve worked with all of them.

Mother, may I take a walk? Yes, especially if you ate too much cotton candy at the State Fair like I did. A walk, or whatever you do for exercise, is a great way to rejuvenate the brain
cells. Your body is busy sweating and sending endorphins to your brain which in turn, will be ready sit back down to work. I get some of my best ideas while walking. It’s amazing what you can come up with given a little stimulus, fresh air, and the time to let your mind wander. Chocolate isn’t bad either, but I’ve been told bending your elbow doesn’t technically classify as exercise unless there’s a barbell in your hand. I think it’s all a matter of how big the piece
of chocolate is.

It isn’t convenient to haul a tablet with you when you’re on the treadmill or walking. So consider one of those little recorders. Or, simply call home and leave yourself a message.

The trick is to play the game by your rules. Give yourself permission to be creative and have the tools to take advantage of your musings. Take a minute to prepare and go out there,
eavesdrop, watch, and free your mind to all those great ideas.


Posted by on September 13, 2011 in writing, writing motivation


21 responses to “The Games We Play

  1. Liz Fredericks

    September 13, 2011 at 6:20 AM

    Mother may I? So much of what we do is about giving ourselves permission to be – who, what and how we want. It’s a pick your hard kind of issue. Thank you for the great ideas. I was attending a high school ‘meet the teachers’ event last night. I made lots of mental notes about parents and teachers alike. Once more, Peggy, an excellent blog.

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 13, 2011 at 8:05 AM

      I love people watching. They’re so full of surprises and interesting quirks.

  2. Carley Ash

    September 13, 2011 at 6:29 AM

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who calls to leave herself reminder messages. Thanks for the great tips.

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 13, 2011 at 8:07 AM

      Leaving youself a message is something we don’t think to do, but it has saved me more times than I’d like to admit.

  3. Meredith Conner

    September 13, 2011 at 6:46 AM

    Dang it all. And I was really hoping bending your elbow counted as exercise. What if it’s a really big piece of chocolate?

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 13, 2011 at 8:08 AM

      We can justify both. Elbow bending is better than no bending. And as we all know, chocolate is a health food. So, you’re good to go.

  4. Janis McCurry

    September 13, 2011 at 6:56 AM

    I leave msgs at my home as reminders and vice versa. You do what you must to make it easy. Thanks for the tips.

  5. P. L. Parker

    September 13, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    I have a little recorder and I carry that so if I get a wild idea, I can tell myself – LOL.

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 13, 2011 at 8:10 AM

      That would be great. I’m not that organized. Just when I went to uses the recorder it would be as dead as my cell phone.

  6. Kathy Bennett

    September 13, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    Good post!

    I’ve left myself messages on my home phone, my iphone, and also carried a recorder around.

    In Los Angeles, I’m often stuck in traffic and that’s a fabulous time to think about your characters or plot.

    As a former police officer, watching people is more than second nature to me , but I still haven’t mastered the knack of writing a few short sentences in a waiting room.

  7. Peggy Staggs

    September 13, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    Wow, a former police officer and in LA. I’ll bet you’re great at body language. People these days are so involved with themselves they don’t pay any attention to what goes on around them. They’ll never know what you’re writing. Thanks for dropping by.

  8. Steph

    September 13, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    Mary, thank you for some great ideas. I usually get inspired as soon as I wake up and within 2 minutes, I’ve forgotten. I will put a small notebook next to the bed.

    • Steph

      September 13, 2011 at 11:41 AM

      Sorry, that should be for Peggy.

      • Peggy Staggs

        September 13, 2011 at 11:45 AM

        I always have one by the bed. Actually, they’re all over the house. Unfortunately, I have a puppy (she thinks she’s still a pup at 4) who eats paper like it’s a special treat.

  9. robinconnellyRobin

    September 13, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    The trick is…if you use the paper in the car idea, is to remember to bring the page or the notebook in with you when you get home. And to put the notebook back!

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 13, 2011 at 1:30 PM

      For me the memory stuff is always a challenge. I went to a spiral notebook for just that reason. Now I just tear the pages out and take them in with me. Thanks for dropping by.

  10. Clarissa Southwick

    September 14, 2011 at 7:31 AM

    Hilarious, Peggy. Thanks so much for the laugh. 🙂

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 14, 2011 at 8:51 AM

      You’re welcome. Hope it helped.

  11. Lynn Mapp

    September 14, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    Peggy, thank you for that reminder to take note of what is going on around us. It makes our stories richer.

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 15, 2011 at 7:59 AM

      We sometimes forget to pay attention to the richness of dialogue around us.


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