I talk to people everywhere I go. I’m one of those people that talks to old people, stops and helps people that are lost and woe betide any of you that work on a shop counter and actually ask me if I’m having a good day.
Writers have to find their inspiration from somewhere. I find it from normal everyday life. People are fascinating! From every background, race, religion, you name it, they have stories and I want to tell them!
I recently went to Paris on the Eurostar for a weekend away. I met a friend there and, armed with a book (just a prop) I found my seat. There were girls on a hen do, couples who were on a romantic weekend away and Parisennes on their way home for the weekend. I was in for a perfect couple of hours of people watching and taking notes.
Then two ladies came and sat opposite me. I got talking to them (natch) and deduced that they were mother and daughter. Off for a trip to the capital of chic, they were both nurses, dad was a doctor, brother was the only non-medical in the family and June (the mum) had a horrid sister-in-law who was bringing up her daughter (June’s niece) to be a spoilt young madam indeed.
How did I find all of this out? Now being an investigative journalist first, copywriter later, I find it easy to extract information from others without giving out details of my own. But I’m not going to use June’s family in any story in the future (well not using their real names anyway*).
Sometimes talking to people opens doors that were inaccessible before. On a train journey a few weeks ago I got talking to a fabulous Turkish man. He told me that a friend of his was the film reviewer for a broadsheet newspaper. Being a film buff, this is my DREAM. Not to do the job, but to visit and gain an insight into something I find fascinating. He said “yeah send him a message on twitter and say you met me!”
I did. I’m going to see him next week.
I was at my local train station, dressed in my running outfit, travelling to meet my friend for a jog. While waiting for my train, I heard three gents talking about an event they were going to in London. They sounded media-ish and I couldn’t for the life of me work them out. As they got up to leave I said: “Excuse me, sorry to stop you, but what do you do and where are you going? I’m a copywriter/journalist – it’s my job to be nosey.”
One of the gents said: “We’re from a digital agency, going to an awards ceremony in town. Did you say you’re a copywriter? Here’s my card. We’re always looking for copywriters.”
I popped to the agency yesterday and am working on a project with them soon.
I was in my JOGGING KIT for goodness sake!!
In this day and age of equality and fierce competition, you’ve got to stand out from the crowd. Start talking to strangers. You never know where it might lead.
*names have obviously been changed.