Tag Archives: the muse

Writing on Cocktail Napkins


If you are paying attention and writing everyday, the muse will be aroused. You do not know when the muse will whisper in your ear.  Sprout a seed.  Alert you to  your obsessions. Trigger your subjects.  I know this because it happens to me all the time.

The muse may strike while you are doing everyday activities – making dinner, washing dishes, walking the dog, or weeding the garden. It may happen while you are in the downward dog position at your evening yoga class. The muse may be triggered from listening to  a conversation at the next table while you are enjoying a night out having dinner with friends. An idea may occur while you’re in the shower. Subjects for stories, after all, come from everywhere.

Once an idea takes hold, your muse continues to nudge you  toward creating. Toward writing more stuff down.  Even if you write the idea for a story down  in a safe place where you can return to work on it, don’t wait until you get back to your desk. The muse will awaken at the oddest times and give you more and more until the thing is done.

Be willing to write at any moment. Use every spare moment you have and write on whatever you can find. For those of us who have to work day jobs, our the muse will demand a snippet of our attention. We may have a short time to get those ideas down on paper. Like while working as a bartender for Broadway shows before Intermission while patrons are watching the first acts.  That’s what happened to Aaron Sorkin who wrote the acclaimed play “A Few Good Men” on cocktail napkins during first acts of ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ at the Palace Theatre. “A Few Good Men” later became a blockbuster film starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise.  And, it all started on cocktail napkins.

If that does not inspire you, Sorkin just won an Oscar for Best Screenplay Adaptation for his script “Social Network”.  Do you think he left his work at home and did not pay attention to ideas for scenes in that movie when he was not at his desk? I’d like to think given Sorkin’s immense talent, he wouldn’t wait until he had suitable paper to transcribe ideas the muse fed to him for scenes in “Social Network,” but instead he grabbed whatever could be written on and ran with the idea.

The muse can whisper in your ear at any time, any place. So don’t wait to write your ideas down. Don’t bother hunting down your spiral notebook  if it’s not handy or running to get your laptop if it’s not turned on and ready to go.  Use whatever paper is available.  Ideas are slippery.

All writers need is a pen and paper. Maybe you don’t have anything to write the idea on. Paper may be scarce where you are. A pen, however, is one thing a writer should always have. Stick it behind your ear, put it in your pocket, put it on a chain and hang it around your neck if you have to.  Then use whatever paper is available.  If you are in the kitchen, grab a napkin from the dispenser. I have written ideas down on the back of grocery lists I have stuck under magnets on the fridge.  Use the margins in the newspaper spread out on the table where you left it that morning.Even cereal boxes have a little white space, grab one from the pantry.

You do not have time to leave the room to hunt down suitable paper. Suitable paper is not needed. A cocktail napkin, for goodness sake, a cocktail napkin. Don’t be choosy. Be a writer and write those ideas down while the flame is burning before the idea flickers away.



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