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A Year of Writing Dangerously by Barbara Abercrombie
A Year of Writing Dangerously : A Mess of Questions and Detail

A Year of Writing Dangerously (Day 283)

A Mess of Questions and Detail

By Barbara Abercrombie

"As a writer, I don’t have ideas for books. I have little bits and pieces of life, little spoken lines and little gestures and settings all represented in language which I then put into a sequence and make into a kind of logic." — Richard Ford

At sunrise Nelson and I are out on the beach, and an older guy in black shorts and a gray T-shirt runs by in the opposite direction with an attractive young woman. I hear him say to her, “Esalen? Michael Murphy?” I strain for more, but they’ve already passed me. About fifteen minutes later I hear two men behind me talking, and one says, “Don’t worry, you should be able to get a ticket. Welcome to LA!” It’s the same older guy in the black shorts and gray shirt — who then runs past me, alone now, in the other direction.

How did he start talking to the young woman, and why, about Esalen and Michael Murphy? And in fifteen minutes how did he start a whole new conversation with a stranger? A ticket to what? When I glance back at the stranger he had been talking to, I notice he’s wearing black pants and a gray shirt too. I’m wearing gray pants and a black shirt.

Nonwriters would think it’s crazy to stand out there on the beach at 6:10 in the morning, writing down overheard dialogue and noting what we’re all wearing and that the clouds today look like little quotation marks in the sky. And maybe it is crazy. But it’s what writers do. •

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Excerpted from A YEAR OF WRITING DANGEROUSLY: 365 Days of Inspiration & Encouragement Copyright © 2012 by Barbara Abercrombie. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. or 800/972-6657 ext. 52.

Barbara AbercrombieBarbara Abercrombie teaches in the writing program at UCLA Extension. The author of novels, children's books, and many essays and articles in national publications, her fourteenth book is "A Year of Writing Dangerously." More »