How to spot a writer



I wasn’t going to blog again so soon as Starlet Fey was the first real story I had written in a while, but sometimes those moments in life just happen that take you away, entertaining your mind with droplets of inspiration.
How to spot a writer. J R Manawa.
She’s sitting opposite me on the tube. In a world of her own. Not paying attention to much.
I realise she’s staring. At me? I’m not sure, but she’s looked away as soon as we make eye contact. We both know London Underground etiquette.
She smiles to herself as she looks away. Have I got food on my face? No. I go back to writing my blog on my phone.
Moments later I glance her way again, curious. She’s looking up and away, with a frown while she thinks, imagines, explores the thought she’s had.
I suddenly click. A writer. Not an eye contact making weirdo, just a writer.
And I’m right, 100%. A moment later she’s pulled a small laptop out of her bag, just like mine, a light and compact laptop perfect for fitting in a handbag on the go. She lies her coat across her lap to make a steady table, just like I would, and she begins to type. The document she’s working on must already be open.
The stalker in me sees the reflection of her screen in the carriage window behind her. Definitely a writer, a cluttered word document layout filled with paragraphs upon paragraphs of closely knit prose.
I smile, and go back to my own writing – on my phone. I wonder what inspired her in that moment to take out her work and start typing flat out on the closely packed underground?
Her smile grows as she types. A big, wide, I’m-pleased-with-myself, I’m-excited-by-this-thought-I’ve-just-had, smile. She looks at the people around her, pauses, smiles, and starts to write again.
I have to smile too, because I do the same thing. Normally people are staring at me like I’m the weirdo, but it’s all about capturing that thought as soon as you’ve had it. Writing about that person as soon as you’ve met them. That scene, as soon as you’ve seen it. While the experience is so fresh you can reach out and touch it.
It’s surreal how simply making eye contact with an unwitting stranger on the path of your life can inspire a character, an individual – the idea of a personality, as you read it in their eyes. Another story, a new story – their story, unwittingly flutters by the edge of your mind.
This is exactly how I met George, and a handful of my other characters too. They walked into my life and walked straight back out, but in those five seconds of contact they left me with a whole life story.
Some people have stories written on their faces. Not their own human stories, but rather the fictional elaborate fantasies of who they could be, and the secrets they might hide behind their eyes.
My friend Liliana and I were shopping in Fortnum and Mason when we met George, and the encounter inspired an entire story. See if you can find us in George’s tale here.
In the mean time, to the cute African girl on the train with the corkscrew ringlets, the tiny white laptop, and the smile that barely contained the delight of the story she was telling – I wish you all the best. May your tales change the world.

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