I’ve just been hunting through an orange box marked ‘Wires and Chargers etc.’
I was looking for the cable that connects my camera to the computer, to download four photos. Yes, only four, because last time I wanted to download photos, and couldn’t find the cable, I discovered that you could slot the memory card straight into the side of the Mac. And there the card remained, forgotten, so when I was out adventuring today only four photos could be stored on the internal memory, or whatever it’s called. And with no memory card in the camera, I needed that flex.
The orange box was filled with useless bits and bobs – yellow telephone wires, AC-DC adaptors, chargers for brands of phone I’ve never owned. I was reminded that it had inspired a poem I wrote a while ago:
Could someone up there
grant me patience
to make sense of discarded cables,
chargers for long-forgotten devices,
leads seeking ports,
jumbled in a heap
of dust-coated noodles
that are the tangled synapses
in my mind.
And in turn, the poem made me think of Foreign Encounters – well, not exactly Foreign Encounters, but how my brain was struggling to get some sort of focus on the subject.
What did I want to write? Would it be non-fiction? Fiction? Poetry? Two or all of the above?
The encounters weren’t the problem. Actually, in a sense they were: I had met so many interesting people over recent months that I simply couldn’t choose. I scrolled through photos for potential stories (Yes! The encounter with the tiger footprint!), I deciphered scribbles in notebooks (The woman who threaded my eyebrows! Perfect!), I re-read recent blog posts (I’ll write about my best friend Anette, who’s leaving for ever)... I scoured newspapers and magazines for inspiring headlines, eavesdropped on conversations, ploughed up and down the swimming pool tossing ideas round my head, and ended up exhausted and more mixed up than ever.
And then I started thinking of jumbled flexes. A flex transmits a message. It conveys photos to your laptop. Or battery life to your phone. And it has to be the right flex or it won’t work. Like writing. Sometimes a piece of writing you read means nothing to you, and sometimes it immediately ‘clicks’. There’s a connection between the reader and the writer.
So it’s not really a question of What do I want to write? but What does a buyer of Foreign Encounters want to read? Probably not about eyebrows or my friend Anette, those are too personal, and they would enjoy real tigers rather than tiger footprints...
On the other hand, we don’t know much about our potential readers, apart from the fact they may be interested in foreign tales. It’s variety that is the key to a good anthology. We have a theme, yes, but our angles and styles are so different, that there will be something for everyone.
Are the rest of you having trouble focussing on ideas? Or are your mental cables all tidy? Where are you hunting for inspiration?
P.S. The missing Samsung flex eventually turned up in an old empty Nikon camera case