I finally got round to looking up the results for the Yorkshire Sabre, which I fenced in January. I knew I'd made the last sixteen, but their official leaderboard shows me as twelfth. That's about four places higher than I expected, and also, mercifully, two places higher than my friend Scott. He would have been insufferable otherwise. Of course, they also spelled my name wrong, but you can't have everything. My unnaturally tall friend Olly finished a good five places higher than either of us.
Olly happened to mention a few of the guys he'd trained with over the years last night, which has started me thinking about just how much of an impact a few people have on you. They might be teachers, or family members, or random people who pass on Yoda-like nuggets of wisdom for no apparent reason, but they're easy to forget about. You, or at least I, remember who our heroes were in particular things; who exactly we looked up to as, for example, writers. It's sometimes harder to remember the people who actually taught us the important lessons, even when they've probably shaped us more than attempts to copy someone farther off.
To return to fencing for a moment, the guy who really did me the most good was Bob Bales. I remember doing lessons a couple of minutes long with him and coming out of them absolutely exhasted. Not only was he the one to tell me that I should be fencing sabre, but he also managed to instill the attitude of the thing. It's turned out more important than all the technical lessons that have followed.
To break away from that particular trip down memory lane, my friend Adam happened to mention last night that he was suffering from writer's block and had run out of things to write about. For Adam then (should he ever read it) five random tips for coming up with ideas. I may even follow some of them myself.
1- Write a list of things you know something about. Most people restrict themselves to writing about one or two things, but know about far more.
2- Try and remember all the cool characters you came up with but never really did anything with. They might not have fit in what you were writing, or you might have come up with a minor character who really deserves something of their own.
3- Boil another story down to its absolute essentials and then build it up in a different way. You can even do this with something you didn't write, though here you have to be careful just to pull the most basic elements of the idea out, and not to actually copy anything.
4- Write a wish list of all the amazing stories you wish other people had written. This will invariably be longer than the list you've written for yourself, because it will contain things that are completely out of your usual area.
5- Ask a friend or family member (or complete stranger if you're feeling brave) to give you something to write about. If you want to do it more subtly than that, ask them about stories they'd like to see. The first way sounds like more of a fun challenge though.