I was attending a large outdoor family gathering recently, and as I sat on the sidelines, trying to regroup and relax a bit, Cousin Myrtle happened by.
“Hey, Kathi,” she said, grinning as she plunked down on the bench beside me. “How’s the writing going?”
As a professional writer who has authored thirty books in nearly as many years, I get this question on a regular basis. When I assure my interrogator that the writing is going very well, thank you, I invariably get the second-most asked question: “Where in the world do you get your ideas?”
Sure enough, Cousin Myrtle followed up with that very question just as her eight-year-old twin grandsons raced by behind her, shooting one another with red punch-filled squirt guns as their mother ran shrieking after them.
I smiled and shrugged. “It’s tough, but somehow they just keep popping up.”
She shook her head. “Well, I don’t know how you do it. I’d run out of ideas after the first book or two.”
The words were scarcely out of her mouth when her younger brother Clyde—one of my least favorite cousins—walked by, looking as cool as…well, as cool as any fifty-something guy can look when he’s trying to convince everyone he’s still in his thirties. (The spiked hair was bad enough, but the baggy pants that started just below his ample paunch were a bit much, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he really thought he was impressing the two twenty-something women joggers who were looking in his direction and laughing!)
“Yeah, it’s a stretch,” I assured Myrtle. “But you learn to be observant and find ideas in everyday occurrences.”
She frowned and glanced around, then shrugged. “You’ve got to be kidding. Books are supposed to be exciting, and real life is…boring.”
I smiled, as I watched my very pregnant niece give her husband “the look,” as he drooled after the disappearing backsides of the two shapely joggers who were still laughing at Cousin Clyde. I could only imagine the conversation that would follow when the expectant couple climbed into their car to head home.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve never thought of real life as being boring. In fact, I usually find there are so many things going on that I have to pick and choose which ideas I want to write about.”
Myrtle frowned again. “I find that really hard to believe.”
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Grandpa Amos, the patriarch of the family, entertaining his pre-school groupies by taking out his teeth and pretending they were talking to him.
Refocusing on Myrtle I said, “Hey, I’m just kidding. Nothing exciting goes on in my life either.”
She beamed. At last I had confirmed her suspicion that writers led boring, humdrum lives like everyone else. As she got up to leave, she asked one final question: “So out of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?”
“It’s Beyond Me,” I answered.
She chortled. “Just as I thought! One title blends right into the next one until you can’t even remember them anymore.” She was still chuckling and shaking her head as she walked away, mumbling, “I still can’t figure out where she gets all her ideas.”
Did I dare tell her that it was at a previous family reunion that I gathered much of the material for another book, How Can I Run a Tight Ship when I’m Surrounded by Loose Cannons? Nah. The concept might send her right over the edge….