There I sat in the hospital waiting room, numb with tedium and nerves, when my very writerly brain decided I could turn this situation into a darned good story…
Okay. As much as I wish I could say the above, it didn’t happen that way. I actually first considered this idea in a writing class at Hollins. We were studying setting, and were tasked with describing a place with a specific personality. As I was jotting down minute details about a hospital waiting room, I found myself caring less about the room itself and more about the sort of person who might notice these things in such a place.
That’s where I met Samantha. But I couldn’t just slip into her mind without wondering why she was so inexplicably comfortable is such a notoriously unwelcoming environment. More importantly, I wondered what about that space Samantha found so appealing, since it certainly couldn’t be the charm of the room itself. Then I found her hobby; and within that hobby, I found a story.
The path to finding this story was a lovely little adventure, but I couldn’t help thinking how much cooler it would be if I had thought of it in a real waiting room. My inner peacock would preen herself, saying “Oh, yes. I can take even the dullest situations and turn them into stories.” I know some writers who can do that, and they get bonus respect points from me. (feel free to share any such revelations if you wish to receive formal transfer of said respect points)
But don’t worry, this isn’t truly a downer post about how Olivia wishes she’d discovered this story in a more brag-worthy way. Eventually, I learned something important.
Several months after I finished yet another rewrite for the story and had the joyous experience of seeing it published, I went to the dentist and found myself—oh yes!—in a waiting room. And I had this moment of “Wow, this is the first time I’ve been in a waiting room since writing that story.”
That was a ‘let’s pause and contemplate’ kind of instance for me. I realized that because I’d written that story, my perception of waiting rooms was forever changed. Working with Samantha had altered a very small piece of my psyche.
As much as I’d originally wished that I had channeled reality into that particular piece, I’m glad now that I didn’t. Instead, the story came first, and connected to my real world later. The important thing is that it connected.