Guilty as charged – I had a sense of recognition when I read this.  Sometimes it feels less as if I have ideas for writing than that ideas accost me as I stroll about, catching my eye as a bright button might catch the magpie’s eye.  I pick them up off the street, sometimes literally, and put them aside in a mental cabinet of curiosities.  It can be as simple as a dog’s facial expression or a few words of graffitti. 

Inside any writer lives a callous magpie who is always at work, pilfering material from what originates often enough as motiveless observation. The magpie’s thieving goes on indiscriminately: its watchfulness is part of what makes a writer an outsider, or what makes outsiders suited to writing. 

Source: Sarah Watling, Tomorrow Perhaps the Future (London: Jonathan Cape, 2023), p. 290

Photo credit: Ovidiu Cozma at unsplash


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