The Unfamiliar Breeds Inspiration

Inspiration often strikes not despite the fact that it’s unexpected but because it’s unexpected, so in retrospect, it should not have surprised me to have been struck with the lightening bolt of inspiration while sitting in a Jury Marshalling Room waiting for my number to be called for a jury. Jury duty is not actually as bad as all that.

The bit of serendipity of the day showed up in the form of a woman who had recently joined our somewhat faltering writing group. Her work and parenting responsibilities prevent her from attending as often as she’d like, but the passion is there.

We waited and waited - first in one room with cushy chairs and then in a waiting area on plastic ones. We talked and talked, getting to know one another in a way that we couldn’t at our group.

The Jury Officer who ran the show took the podium and began calling names for the first of the three cases for which they needed juries that day. Neither my friend nor I were picked. We breathed relief and waited and talked some more.

Staring at a wall of names, I mused, “Look at all these names. How could I ever have trouble creating a fictional one?”

She shared with me some of the oddest names she’d come across in her time as a professor at a local university.

“My favorite of all the names,” she said, “was Basil Motley.”

“That one needs to be the star of a graphic novel,” I said.

When we sat for more waiting, I pulled out paper (because if there is going to be waiting, I’m armed with at least one of the following and frequently all three: paper, a book, a laptop).

“We’re going to write a scene with Basil Motley in it for ten minutes.”

There was a smidgen of fear in her eyes, but she bellied up to the bar and without a moment's hesitation began writing and writing.

Here’s something I’d forgotten: free writing is fun! At the end of the ten minutes, we swapped papers and giggled over the predicaments into which we’d placed poor old Basil. Not ten minutes later, the Jury Officer took the podium again and announced that we were being dismissed.


Now, I’m not so self-centered to think that the whole point of that morning was for me to connect with a fellow writer and be reminded of the joy of writing. Nonetheless, an hour later I sat at my laptop writing new fiction for the first time in weeks. Despite all of my knowledge about writing and creativity and despite the support of friends and family members, it was time spent with a new friend in a foreign environment that offered the jumpstart that I sorely needed.

Any situation that jars you from your current state has the potential for fostering inspiration. The question is how to remain open to it.

(Jury Duty  image from via; free write image from via