This week’s writing challenge revolves around my favorite inspiration: eavesdropping.

My mother would be horrified at my bad manners. When I hit the wall with my writing and need motivation, I go to my local coffee shop, and listen in on the conversations around me.

At my cafe, I’ve heard some great chats — from awkward first dates, to job interviews, to one-sided cell phone arguments. If a particular tidbit excites me, I’ll use it as a line of dialogue, as the first line in an essay, or as a writing prompt.

Here are a few examples of what I overheard today while I sipped my green tea:

“He didn’t even cry when I told him. I hate him even more now.”

“Cashiers can’t be drunk, but they’re not as strict with the baggers.”

Phone rings. “Hello?…No, you still have the wrong number, and if you call again, I am literally going to go insane.” Seconds later, the phone rings again.

I nabbed the second overheard statement, and used it as the start of a short story. There was no way I could pass it up.

Style and genre are entirely up to you.

Fiction, political rant, photo essay, poetry, personal reflections…the world is your oyster. Regardless of what and how you blog, your inspiration will be the voices around you. Can you hear what the strangers on the train are murmuring? What your coworkers are complaining about in the break room? What your kids are conspiring about when they should be asleep? If a snippet of conversation ignites your fire, take note of it, and use it to rock your next blog post.

If the government can do it, so can you: tap into your inner spy. Listen in on a conversation, and get blogging.

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  1. This sounds awesome, I love doing stuff like this but never thought to use it as a writing prompt!! thanks for the inspiration. Don’t worry I won’t tell your mom if you don’t tell mine 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Love it! Life is, after all, the best material for a writer. I am forever pulling out my phone to jot down a few phrases on the notepad (an overheard conversation or a scene I’ve witnessed) to write about when I can get to my laptop. I think we’re all a bit voyeuristic by nature, don’t you? Karen 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It’s things like this that make me miss living in civilization- I haven’t left my rural Alaskan village in over a month and alas- no coffee shop! However Christmas break comes so soon, and I will be listening away! Airports are great for this too!

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  4. I am a train rider so peoples conversations are in surround sound. However, I think some of the best lines have come from me and my family. I have a 7 year old nephew so he is pretty funny but one time me and my mom were in the supermarket and I was telling her about my want to donate my organs. She pointed to a cosmo magazine and said look everyone is talking about them. I said no mom, they are talking about orgasms.I am laughing and slapping my hand on my desk now as I type.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You hear some great conversation on the bus. Once I heard two guys talking about comic books and one guy said “Christians have the bible and we go this.”

    I loved that comment so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. From one of my students, in an essay, “…democracy allowed for civil wars and intestine [sic] commotions.” Who knew that democracy could cause such horrible things as constipation and the runs??

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great prompt. This “listening in” exercise is one I have all of my students do regularly — in all of my creative writing classes. They keep a journal for just this purpose — well — also to record any eye-catching scenes that they encounter. It teaches two primary disciplines that every good writer needs: 1.To be aware of the world around them at all times, noticing the little details that the “non-writer” always misses. 2.To write dialogue that is realistic. One of the most frequent faults with works by inexperienced writers is that their characters’ dialogue is stilted and contrived rather than sounding like the real people we actually share life with everyday. A few hours a week listening to real people carrying on real conversations is one of the best investments a serious writer can make in his success.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Ugh. I published before I had put a title on the post and now it looks like there are two links to me. Is there a way you can delete one in the pingbacks?


  9. Definitely going to try this! I also just like to people watch and develop a character based on someone’s clothes, accessories, or the way they carry themselves. This may sound superficial, but it’s so great for a writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill, I don’t think it’s superficial at all. Those things really make characters pop to life — those specific details.

      I’m kind of obsessed with watching how people walk 🙂


  10. although an office cubicle can help you work and eat your lunch in peace, it doesn’t completely insulate you from your neighbors. sitting behind the partition walls, they provide constant reminders that you’re not alone. they can hear you loud and clear. they can hear everything. the phone conversations. the sighs. the yawns. the sounds that make you distinctly human.


    Liked by 2 people

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