There’s a quote, attributed to Oscar Wilde that, “A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.” For me, that takes the form of connecting several unrelated things, until I have an interesting premise, a kernel of something.
Case in point: A few years ago, I flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a buddy’s wedding. While connecting in Denver, I had a quick lunch – this delicious Tuscan chicken sandwich, slathered in a delightful oil dressing (this is important).
I grabbed my connection, and was on my way for the one hour flight.
Usually when I fly, I take Dramamine for motion sickness, but it also tires me out, and I knew I had to rent a car when I landed, so before this flight I took just a minimal dose.
It wasn’t enough.
Right after take-off, we hit turbulence and my stomach lurched. The flight didn’t improve from there. With each jolt and weave, my nausea grew. After forty minutes of suffering, I knew I wasn’t going to make the entire flight, so I reached for the airsick bag.
I filled it.
My kind row-mates nervously handed me their bags as well, and I continued to heave throughout the approach and landing, missing only a couple drops that I discretely wiped up with a tissue. As discretely as you can do anything on these cramped flights.
After we landed, I shuffled off the plane and went with the herd to baggage claim, then took a seat to collect my wits, thought about the whole experience, and recalled a certain detail:
That Tuscan chicken sandwich tasted just as delicious on the way back up.
Seriously, there was not a hint of stomach acid or bile. It tasted exactly the same, as if my stomach had looked at the initial deposit, referenced my flight time, then said, “Eh, this will take care of itself”, and never bothered to start digesting.
The reason is because I take acid blockers for chronic reflux. My stomach produces no acid, instead relying on all the other enzymes for digestion. So vomiting is slightly less unpleasant for me than for other folks (it still sucks). But my mind ran with this. Later I connected the dots and shared this thought with my wife:
“I’m not bulimic, but if I were, taking an acid blocker would be the way to go. No acid, no tooth decay, no Barret’s esophagus. You’d still have bad breath, but….”
She just looked at me, “wtf” written all over her face, then said, “What kind of example do you want to set for our daughters?”
And without realizing it, she provided another connection. Bulimia isn’t something to be addressed flippantly. The tone of a story with these details would have to take into account the complexities around that issue. It’s a kernel though, an idea of a character with a problem who maybe focuses on the small details at the expense of the grander picture.
I’m not sure how or even if I’ll ever grow that into something more, but ideas are free. If you want to take that ball and run with it, let me know what you come up with.