So I was on the subway.

The woman sitting next to me on my mainly empty car had a great reusable water bottle. My problem with most water bottles is leakage: I am very careful about finding one with a tight seal that isn’t too heavy. The water bottle she was holding looked perfect.

I asked her if she got it off Amazon.

She looked scared to answer me. She grunted a word. She looked confused as to why I was asking her a question.

Why would someone not want to answer a simple, honest question?

I realize that I am a person who tends to where headphones everywhere so that I don’t need to engage in conversation. I admit that I am the person who will be wholly absorbed in a book when she is on mass transit and don’t want to be disturbed. I know I am all kinds of anti social.

Something about this young woman made me think of none of those things. Something about the way she handled herself didn’t feel natural. Something about her reaction seemed off. It started to make me think.

Hmmmmm

You can now see why mass transit is my greatest source of inspiration. And my greatest source for overthinking.

The wheels in my head begin to turn as I now considered this person a “character”.

Why would she act this way? What’s her motivation behind her behavior? What’s her background?

As the 2 train rambled on its way to Eastern Parkway, I began to develop a story in my head. I made up an occupation, administrative assistant, based on her blandly semi professional pants and shirt. Stressed about something, by her slightly chewed nails. She just walked out of her generic office job in a huff. She’s mad at her co worker who stole her idea. She nicked that persons water bottle as she left the office. She’s going home to cool off in her tragically unhip apartment in her tragically unhip neighborhood of Brooklyn which seems to have passed by on the gentrification train…

I get to the Botanic Garden, my second greatest spot for inspiration and overthinking, take out my trusty pink notebook, and write all about this character I made up in my head, based on one tangible thing: a woman, in ill fitting clothes and ragged cuticles gave me an odd response to a question. I let my imagination give me the rest.

I may not ever use the character I created that day. But I had a lot of fun writing a brief character description and some lines of dialogue. That’s the joy of writing for me: sitting down with my notebook or my computer and just putting words on a page. I do it for me, not for some greater goal or good. I just like to think of the who, what, where, when and how. I just like to write.

I love it when I come across something in my day to day that inspires me. Ideas don’t have to be loud and splashy- they can be subtle as well. I think sometimes when we get in a writing rut we forget that stories can begin with a whimper, and end with a bang. I think we forget that what appears mundane can be the start of a thrilling adventure… I think we forget that we just need a start. That it doesn’t really matter what the inspiration- anything can be a great story if properly told. But we only learn how to properly tell anything by practice…

Anything in your life can be a writing prompt. Use it. Write it. Or draw it. Or whatever way you choose to express your creativity.

Just get out there. Look around. Get inspired.

67 thoughts on “The Water Bottle

  1. I feel like I would be this woman. I’ve been working from home since the pandemic. If I ever have to go back to a physical office, I will probably melt into a socially awkward puddle the first time someone tries to have a conversation with me, haha.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You didn’t ask her where she got it, right? You asked her if she got it from Amazon. Suppose she did? Suppose she knows that lots of people really hate Amazon? Maybe she was too scared of you to answer…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Another example of something. And another avenue to explore. She never answered me however you look at it. We can write the story any way we wish

      Like

  3. Maybe she DID steal the water bottle. Perhaps she was new to this office job and loathed the environment in which she worked. So she quit after a week, and as an act of rebellion, she took the water bottle off of a desk on her way out. And maybe she thought you were following her on the way out the door and attempting to pull a confession out of her on the subway, END SCENE.

    This was fun.
    Do it again! Do it again!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Ok. All I have is this. Woman of a certain age, dressed sort of preppy, glasses and close cropped hair, well groomed, with her little white Maltese who wouldnt come near me and my dog until she asked if mine was friendLy…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Specifically, I was walking to the farmers market, on a quiet tree lined street with a little park to my right behind a wrought iron gate. This is an expensive little square of homes

        Liked by 1 person

      3. When she was a teenager, she worked as a dog walker for several of the wealthy households in this neighborhood. That is, until she was attacked by a dog while out for a walk one day. She spent months in the hospital and her career as a dog walker was cut short as a result of the trauma. She had only recently returned to the area when she ran into you. She was triggered because the dog who attacked her resembled yours.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m crushed you didn’t find out the answer to an innocent query but hey! Inspiration strikes! I remember taking this writing course and they had you look around and find someone to describe. And it was just like a moment like this. So cool you could walk away with an idea for a new story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Neat that you crafted a back-story for the woman on the subway. And a good point that inspiration is all around us — it takes an openness to take what we see and use our imaginations to go beyond the surface. What looks like a normal wardrobe could be the entrance to a fantastical place.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great character challenge. I find inspiration in unusual places as well, but it is crafting not writing. The cardboard inserts that come in a set of sheets was one. I could easily see it being the cover of a mini-album.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You created a great story from your encounter. In college I had a professor who instructed us to take a journal with us everywhere. We were to listen and observe and write or sketch. It was to build our characters with details.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I met strangers/people in stores, usually standing in line with them, and that gets me curious about who they are, what they’re buying, why they’re like they are. Nothing better than to make up stories about them after chatting briefly with them. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You clearly have a writer’s soul LA! I would struggle to make anything of that at all. In fact, even carrying a notebook to jot things in seems beyond me. I try to remember my “brilliant” thoughts and rarely succeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Completely agree. Someone asked me once about inspiration, and writing, and I said it comes from everywhere. Paying attention, feeling life as it comes, and then going with that. For me, I will experience something and a single line of a poem will come. I always write it down if able. Even if it seems odd, especially if it seems odd actually. Best writing comes that way.

    Liked by 1 person

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