Brainstorming – Using a Bad Day

Nov 7, 2014 by

Brainstorming – Using a Bad Day

When the phone rang last evening around 5, I wasn’t quite prepared to hear my daughter saying, “Mommy,” in a voice that sounded like she was five again and afraid of the dark.

Immediately my heart plummeted, I sat up straight and said, “Are you OK?”

“Everything’s fine, I’m OK. OK, no, everything’s not fine, but I am OK.”

I taught my kids a long time ago to not keep me in suspense, so letting me know she was fine allowed me to focus on her words than on watching my anxiety skyrocket to the point I would be of little help to her.

The right front axle of her truck broke, the vehicle lurched, lights flashed on the dashboard, but she was able to get to a place of safety. It didn’t happen when she was driving 65 mph (as she had been just moments before on the freeway) and she was right, everything was fine.

Things can be fixed, but people can’t be replaced.

It’s going to be interesting to see how we handle transportation for her. She is in college, living at home, working two jobs to pay for tuition and books. There’s not a lot of give in that kind of budget, but she’s OK.

That’s when I realized we sometimes need these bad days, the kind that hit you hard, cause you to have a real, true emotional reaction that socks you in the gut.

We need them because that’s how we put markers on our life.

“Remember when the tire blew out on the way home from the Christmas tree lot, and Ralph went out to help Dad change the tire and he lost the bolts, leaving Dad searching through the snow, in the dark to find them?”

Oh wait, that’s from the movie, A Christmas Story.

But you get the idea.

Stories that stay with us are the ones with conflict, tears, anger, frustration, rage, sadness, grief.

Having emotions is what makes us know we’re awake and alive in this world.

So it is with brainstorming for your next writing idea.

If you have no conflict, everything’s just happy and joyous and perfect, then your story’s going to be really short. Sure, being happy feels great. But our memory of such happiness fades unless there was conflict prior to that happiness. Think about weddings. Such a happy day, right? How much of that happiness is relief that all the pressures from both families and all your friends are finally over? 

When writing your story, think back to the times when you didn’t get what you want, when life threw you a curve ball, when the axle broke on your truck.

That’s a better place to start writing a story than at then end when everything is resolved. Write about the conflict, the jagged emotions that resulted, the many ways you zigged and zagged as you worked to find  solution.

That’s what people want to know about.

The happy ending is exactly that…The End.


3471 Broken down car

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  1. Harriet

    Reminds me of that country song about “Oh it’s a dirty old shame
    When all you get from love is a love song.”

    Read more: The Carpenters – All You Get From Love Is A Love Song Lyrics | MetroLyrics

    Yes, your heart is broken but you did get a song out of it. Sort of like a couple of my stories about love lost. Luckily, my cat stories all have happy endings, well, most of them

  2. Kathleen Birmingham

    Yes, Harriet…you’re so right!

    I got something out of it, and it reminded me that when things always go well, I don’t always notice or appreciate. But when something goes wrong, then all the good things that result are more memorable.

    Yes, your kitties always have happy endings…otherwise you might not wake up in the morning. They DO know where you live!