I’ve been a writer long enough to accept the weird brain-quirks that come with the territory. I have grown used to the constant chatter in my brain. When the well of weirdness runs dry, I actually get a little disconcerted. Being able to get through a workday without writerly thoughts disrupting my concentration feels … off.
Even so, my Writeritis going into overdrive during the Superbowl surprised me.
Although I’m a Steelers fan, I’ve really enjoyed watching the town of Baltimore come alive for the Ravens Superbowl run. We gathered for the game at the family pub, and my Superbowl surroundings looked like this:
I was in the most festive place you could be outside of New Orleans. On top of that, I was completely immersed in the game. I love football, and this was the last NFL dance of the season.
At halftime, it seemed the Ravens were going to pull off an easy win. But I’ve seen the 49ers in comeback mode, so I was still nervous for the die-hard fans who surrounded me. When the second half started, Jacoby Jones ran a 108-yard kickoff return that stretched the Ravens’ lead even farther.
Then the lights went out. Not in our pub, of course. At the stadium.
As I waited with my anxious friends and family for the game to resume, I experienced a sense of deja vu. This scenario felt awful darn familiar. Then I remembered. Last year, I sat at the pub watching my Steelers play a nail-biter against the 49ers at Candlestick Park, and there was a blackout at the stadium.
In retrospect, I probably should have just enjoyed the downtime. When the power came back on, the Steelers got their butts kicked.
But what a coincidence – in all my years of football fandom I have only watched two games that were interrupted by a power failure, and the Niners played in both.
After what seemed an eternity to my anxious friends, the lights came back on and the Superbowl continued. But a light had flickered on in my brain, too. As I watched the roller-coaster second half, a sliver of my mind was busy giving birth to a freak.
He’s a short, dumpy, bespectacled dude who resembles Seinfeld’s George Costanza. He’s a rabid fan of some to-be-determined sports team. He eats sardines out of the can. Although fortysomething, he lives with his divorced mother and spinster aunt. He’s never learned to do laundry. His mom still packs his lunch (bologna and cheese with the crusts cut off). He’s a skilled computer programmer. Never an athletic guy himself, he loves football but can’t identify with the players. So his hero-worship has zoomed in on the coach, a charismatic, hyper man who is both a great motivator and prone to losing his own shit now and then.
You know, kind of like Jim Harbaugh:
My little freak emulates his hero, but having a volatile, combative personality just doesn’t work as well for a middle-aged computer geek who lives with his momma as it does for a gifted coach. So he quits his job and starts following the team, trying desperately to get the coach’s attention by finding creative ways to disrupt games. Instead of winning his hero’s admiration, he only succeeds in irking the shit out of him.
I don’t know what if anything will become of my disturbed nerd and his fledgling storyline. Maybe he’s his own short story. Maybe he’s a sidebar in another future work of fiction.
But I love the tangents a writer’s brain goes off on sometimes. A character was born because I had a sense of deja vu about the 49ers and power outages, and then Jim Harbaugh had his fourth-quarter meltdown over what he felt was a bad call. The two things came together to start knitting an off-kilter character and a story.
I’m used to my mind wandering down writerly side streets when I’m bored. But this is the first time I’ve had such an “a-ha!” writing episode when I was truly living in the moment rather than trying to distract myself from it.
What are some of your oddest or most memorable bursts of creative inspiration?