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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Junk Drawer Inspiration

By Sandra Nachlinger

For writers, inspiration can come from just about anywhere. When I lived in Miami, my writing teacher, Dennis Ross, had plenty of ideas for his students. At the end of each class, he’d give us a selection of prompts to use in creating our stories for the following week. But as class ended one evening he asked each of us to bring three objects to our next session. Why? He smiled and said we’d just have to wait and see.

People showed up at the next class with a variety of things: a plastic spoon, whistle, small flashlight, bottle cap, piece of chalk, key, photos, books of matches. Obviously, junk drawers everywhere had been raided. When we arrived with our treasures, Dennis put them in a cardboard box, mixed them up, and instructed us to close our eyes and take out three things. The purpose of this exercise? We had to include those three items in our next story.

In my case, I picked a dried-up tube of lipstick, a key, and a cardboard coaster from The Hog’s Breath Saloon. The guy who brought the key said he thought it belonged to a Harley he once had.

The next day I went online and looked up The Hog’s Breath Saloon. The bar is one of many in Key West, Florida. I had my setting! Lipstick and a Harley key? My brain went in four different directions, inspired by all the possibilities. The short story I wrote started with this line:

Heads turned at the click of Maggie’s four-inch heels on the wooden barroom floor.

She's wearing bright red lipstick, and her boyfriend roars into the parking lot on a Harley.

Maybe all of us should excavate our junk drawers. Just close our eyes and grab something. Who knows what inspiration might lie within our grasp?

(FYI: This is a recycled post from my participation with other authors on the now-defunct Boomers & Books blog, originally published in September, 2013. My first novel, I.O.U. SEX, was inspired by my high school diary.)


  1. What a fun inspiration for a story! As a reader, it is always interesting to me to find out what inspired a story!

  2. Fun post, Sandy! Thanks for the reminder that inspiration can literally come from anywhere.

  3. Great exercise, Sandy. My father used to tell me that a writer can create a story about anything. He used as an example a fly on the wall and a grain of sand as two stories. He was an excellent storyteller.

  4. Great story! And I agree with you, inspiration is everywhere. We just have to keep our eyes and ears open.


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