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Creative Writing and Overheard Conversations

It seems I’m always jotting down notes and story ideas, sometimes even waking in the middle of the night with some thought that won’t let me get back to sleep until I put it somewhere. This post is actually a creative writing idea that first came to me many years ago and has continued nudging me countless times throughout my life: moments while in a checkout line, passing people on escalators or in skywalks, in the hallways at work, over cubicle walls, on elevators, in waiting rooms and restrooms, at restaurants, in parking lots, pedaling past people while on my bike, riding on a bus or a plane or a train, and even while stopped at a traffic light with the car windows rolled down. Random moments when I happened to become privy to an overheard conversation, sometimes for only a partial phrase or sentence, and sometimes much longer than I really wanted to be hearing it.

If I taught a creative writing course, this would be one of the assignments – for one week, just listen and pay attention to the conversations around you and then jot down some of those spoken words. When you have about 20 phrases written down, add your own comments or observations or maybe even write an ending to the conversation.

As you might imagine, I’ve heard some bizarre and seemingly crazy and oftentimes hilarious things from people, or at least they sounded that way to me. Of course I wasn’t always hearing the whole conversation, or even both sides of it for that matter. But I am convinced that some people should never be allowed to use a cell phone in public, or at least until they’ve learned better manners or how to talk more quietly while on the phone.

I probably need to add a disclaimer right about now. First of all so you don’t think I’m some intentional eavesdropper, I didn’t go out of my way to hear any of these conversations; they came to me. Secondly, there is a chance some of what I heard and wrote down, might not have been verbatim. Case in point, my blog post from this month, entitled: Don’t Die Now, where I shared what I thought I’d heard and what was actually said. They were two totally different things.

Throughout the years I’ve been jotting down all kinds of snippets of words on little slips of paper, deposit slips, grocery store receipts, or any other pieces of paper I happened to find in the moment, generally discovered and pulled from the inside of my purse or other bag I was carrying at the time. Sometimes it was after I’d arrived at home when the conversation or the thoughts played back in my mind. I’ve also written down a lot of notes in my various pocket Moleskines and even entered some in my iPhone. In probably every case, the phrases that I kept or recorded had a lot more words either leading up to them or following the ones that I thought worth saving. And when digging through my stash of saved words, I found a number of pieces of paper with scribbled stuff that may not have even been overheard conversations, but they seemed like they belonged here too. Isn’t that after all what creative writing is all about?

Moleskine Drawer of Story and Writing Ideas

My Moleskine Drawer of Story and Writing Ideas

So in no special order, here is a sampling of some OVERHEARD CONVERSATIONS with my added comments in italics.

HE WOULDN’T HAVE SAID IT IF HE’D MEANT ITwhich would mean, when he did say it he didn’t mean it. I think the speaker tripped on their words, but it still made me chuckle to myself and do a double take. Then again, maybe I heard it wrong.

ADD THE CHOCOLATE, ALTHOUGH IT’S OPTIONALI don’t know what they were making or what recipe they were following, but I ask you, when is chocolate EVER optional?

COULD YOU POSSIBLY BE MORE RANDOM?The answer is of course, yes.

I’D DIE IF ANYONE KNEW THIS ABOUT MEa woman sitting on a very crowded train car only a couple of seats ahead of me, proceeded rather loudly to go into very graphic detail on her cell phone about some very private female ailment that she was receiving medical care for…I wanted to put my fingers in my ears and say out loud, “la la la la la la la la…” I don’t think I was alone.

I DON’T REMEMBER ANYTHING AFTER THAToh man. I wondered if they were trying to recite the number sequence for Pi or simply recalling an overly eventful night out.

IF I HAD A QUARTER FOR EVERYTIME I’VE HEARD YOU SAY THAT, I WOULDN’T EVEN HAVE A DOLLAR.I burst out laughing when I heard this, because I often use this analogy, only I generally end it with – I could retire. Why in the world would anyone even bother using it to reference 75 cents? Or maybe, they were just trying to be funny.

USUALLY I’M SMARTER AFTER 3 BEERShoney, no one is smarter after 3 beers.

OKAY. MAYBE WHEN YOU’RE 16the only thing I could come up with — maybe when you’re 16 you’ll go out on your first date or get your license or drive the car.

IRREGARDLESS, TAKE THE JOB. Since irregardless is not a word and two negatives would mean the opposite, DO NOT take the job. Regardless of what anyone else has (or what I just) said.

WE SHOULD HAVE THE RESULTS SOMETIME NEXT WEEK.I immediately said a prayer for good results and the right outcome.

I SO WISH I’D TOLD HIMit’s interesting how a few simple words can be taken in so many different ways. Who knows what they were wishing to have said, but I thought they might be some words of apology or love, or maybe something in a totally different wavelength and much sassier than what I was thinking.

MY FAVORITE QUESTION OF ALL TIMEwhen someone says something with added words like favorite or of all time, I’m generally all ears. Only for some reason I didn’t hear the words that came next. The first question or thought that comes to my mind now is, ‘Will you marry me?”

LISTEN. WAIT TWO WEEKS, THEN BURN IT.I still crack up when thinking about these words. What the heck was going to be turned into charcoal in two weeks? I imagined it was some important documents or secret letters or a journal…or maybe a REALLY expensive candle.

ARE YOU SERIOUS? I’M NOT KIDDING. YOU’D BETTER BE JOKING.I don’t know, but this conversation had so much joking and kidding in it, I couldn’t help laughing. I’m serious, and I’m not kidding or joking, even now it cracks me up.

AM I SERIOUS? AM I SERIOUS? ARE YOU SERIOUS?When I heard this one-way phone conversation on the train, I wanted to burst out laughing. In my mind, it sounds more like a mafia guy or someone with a strong New Jersey accent saying it, instead of the 20-something soft-spoken guy who did say it.

IT LOOKED LIKE GEORGE CLOONEY, BECAUSE IT WAS GEORGE CLOONEY.Hello. George Clooney? I wanted to follow these two well-dressed women into their cab to hear the rest of this story. But, I didn’t.

OH I CAN’T. I’M AT STARBUCKS.Ladies and gentlemen, she was NOT at Starbucks. She wasn’t even holding a cup that said Starbucks.


YES, I’LL TAKE IT. – It doesn’t matter what they were talking about; I like decisive people.

BUDDY, IT’S THE BEST STORY I’VE EVER HEARD.A guy carrying a laptop case and getting on the elevator at work was finishing a phone call. Our eyes met and we both smiled. He shared that his young son had just read his grade school essay to him over the phone. My eyes got a little teary. I’m not sure, but I think his did too.

IT WOULD HAVE TO BE AMBER. YUP. AMBER.were they giving the police a description of someone’s eyes, or trying to choose a paint color, or maybe giving their opinion on a baby’s name? I happen to love the color and the name.

IT WAS EASY. ALL I NEEDED WAS A FLASHLIGHT AND A LITTLE DUCT TAPE. – It almost sounds like some advertising jingle for Duct tape, don’t you think? I’m envisioning the voice of Tim Allen saying the words. I wonder what easy dilemma was resolved by these two well-used inventions. Or maybe the question is what dilemma can’t be solved by at least one of them?

IF YOU PUT ONE MORE THING IN THE CART, I’M GOING TO BREAK YOUR…I’M GOING TO COUNT TO THREE. – Absolutely no judging here, I’m thinking there are many parents out there that may not have said these exact words, but there’s a slight chance they may have thought them or at least said some version of them.

MAYBE IN A HUNDRED YEARSwell, that kind of encompasses a lot of options and a lot of territory, don’t you think? Only one thing is for sure, we’ll never know.


6 comments on “Creative Writing and Overheard Conversations

  1. dianescheurell
    November 29, 2014

    “Okay, maybe when you’re 16,” has been said to my younger daughter about 1) getting a bikini, 2) wearing lipstick, 3) wearing dangly earrings all of which she is already doing at 15. At least I staved them off for a while.

    • spencedaniel2012
      November 30, 2014

      I’m smiling as I remember those days well.
      I’m just home from church, where I overheard two little 4 year old boys after Mass giggling and discussing their belly buttons. They seemed to be competing as one of them said, “No, my belly button!” I glanced at a woman who appeared to be the mom of either one or both of them. She rolled her eyes and shook her head and simply said, ‘Boys.”
      It made me chuckle to myself then and now too.

  2. Joan Richio
    December 1, 2014

    Sue, you are another Erma Bombeck!!! This is hilarious!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • spencedaniel2012
      December 7, 2014

      Thank you, Joan. That is certainly high praise. I’m tickled by your compliment.

  3. Jessie
    December 12, 2014

    This is fantastic Sue! It really is interesting to notice phrases or comments when passing by someone or just in random moments. I like the idea of jotting them down occasionally and making more of a creative story about it. Brilliant and fun! My favorite one above was “Buddy, it’s the best story I’ve ever heard.” Love this post, Sue!

    • spencedaniel2012
      December 13, 2014

      Jessie, I’m so glad you enjoyed my post and I’m truly touched by your words and wonderful adjectives. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and for stopping by to read mine. Wishing you all the best always.

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