When Writers Go Wrong: A Guest Post by Michael Signorile

The Subway Ride
By Michael Signorile

“That’s a really good idea” will be the phrase etched on my tombstone when I die. Actually, no, scratch that. That’s an awful idea.

I’d much rather be ashes, floating in the wind, ruining some newlyweds’ picnic in Central Park. That’s a really good idea.

“I should write that one down” will be the opening line of my obituary.

Heeding my own words, I do just that. Pen to paper, eyes locked tight, and there it goes.

I’m the madman on the subway, a five o’clock shadow at eight in the morning, whipping out the notepad hidden inside of my jacket pocket multiple times within a minute, jotting down ideas for stories and poems.

Everyone has their own way of composing a work. Many folks see inspiration lingering, and others may just have an idea playing around in their minds for many moons.

There is no such thing as a bad premise, only a bad execution.

As quickly as they’ve been inked, these new ideas can be crossed out, brought back to life, thrown around and revived. The woman to my left is annoyed by my pen scratching. The man across from me is certainly unamused by the grin on my face.

Be miserable like me, why don’t you?

That’s the only advice I can give my fellow subway riders today. The world inside of my head deserves to be shown our own, once in a while. It may not like it, and I’m dragging them out kicking and screaming, but here they are.

Surrounded by question marks, arrows pointing to hastily constructed names and circles, trying to tie it all together, like some bargain bin creator on his way to a universal deity convention, I shape the destinies of a thousand beings.

The people on the subway are all dressed in drab garb, of black and white and gray and boring. Winter’s in full effect here in the city that never sleeps, so naturally everyone’s cherry picked and red faced about that.

Their faces are limp with displeasure. The only noises ringing out are the clacker-rattle of the subway cars as they rumble down the tracks, and the scribbling of this pen of mine. I am a public disturbance. People will focus in on me.

So these new ideas are jotted down, all well and good. They’re brilliant, they’re exemplary, they’re rubbish, they can’t stand up in the face of what the market and the consumers demand.

But they’re my ideas. These characters, these settings, the plot lines and plot holes, as befuddled and awful and wonderful as they are, they’re all an extension of myself.

I will write what I love because that’s what I want to do.

These are my children, my creations, my pride and joy. Even these subway denizens, today, tomorrow, forever, as miserable as they go off and about, they’re people I care about.

I see myself in them at every moment, no matter what face is staring back. They are creative sparks, pieces flint waiting to be struck, flames waiting to ignite. An idea can be pulled from anywhere, from any moment.

Eventually, these people, total strangers, they depart, one after the other. Some will consider me to be mad. Some are too peeved with their day to acknowledge me. That’s how it’ll always be.

They will never know who I am. I am no one to them, and will probably always remain that way.

But to me, my pad, and my pen, these dear strangers are more alive than any moment in time that will ever be. They are inspiration incarnate, and I am indeed mad.

Mad because I will never know if they have felt the same about those around them. I’m mad because they’ve left me a titanic job, writing a history and a legacy for all of their faces, their world.

Am I mad, or am I mad? Language; it’s a trite little thing we do.

Subway riders all speaking different languages, working together towards the common good, making the world a better place one step at a time.

Ideas will always make themselves known, and giving each one a little bit of love, a gram of attention, is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

And that’s a really good idea.


Note from V: To find out more about Michael’s ideas (both good and bad…though, as most writers know, sometimes “bad” ideas make for the best stories) please check out his about.me page and/or follow him on Twitter.