Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nostalgia and Creativity

My writing time on weekdays is generally in the afternoon lately, since I go to downtown L.A. mornings for my “temporary” law job. I wouldn’t have lasted this long at it (over a year so far) if I had to drive, buck traffic, and pay for the expensive parking in the area. Instead, I take the Metro --L.A.’s subway system.

Yesterday, when I got on the subway, though, the driver got on the P.A. system to say there was an emergency at the next station and the power was out. Since I haven’t found anything more about it on-line or heard any news reports, the emergency was hopefully not too serious, other than disrupting service. In any event, I was fortunate enough to have an alternate plan. I called my husband, who came with Lexie to pick me up.

And where did we meet? Well, we both thought of a location a little easier to get to than most, since it’s not directly downtown. It’s where I used to work, the former Unocal Center, which is now Los Angeles Center Studios. Years ago, as an in-house attorney with Union Oil Company of California (Unocal), I was involved with many real estate issues concerning that site, including its sale, and attempted lease of a major part of an office building that was planned to be built on part of the property but never was, thanks to a downturn in the L.A. real estate industry. I think often of the irony that Unocal Center, which was supposed to be torn down, still exists, while Unocal no longer does. It was merged into Chevron a couple of years ago.

I don’t get to that area often, so it was a real kick to walk up the hill over the 110 (Harbor) Freeway the way I used to. I saw the streets, many now blocked off as part of the studio complex, where I used to hang out. The old outdoor parking lot is mostly still there, but part of it is now a park, and another part, all fenced in, holds prop vehicles for the studio--cop cars, emergency vehicles, Border Patrol cars, and more. The building itself appears in many TV shows and commercials, which still delights me.

Because of tight security at the studio, I couldn’t just walk in and look around. Instead, I stood near the entrance I once used to drive into the underground parking lot, and just looked at the place. I recalled many lunchtime walks with friends on the street where I stood. I remembered driving into the parking lot and standing in the courtyard outside after the Whittier Earthquake. And then there were the many, many happy days I spent inside just doing my job with a group of wonderful, caring people--including the time when the company was under siege by a potential corporate looter, and Unocal managed to stave him off, although at a tremendous cost. The financial effects may have contributed, even years later, to the company changing its focus and, ultimately, becoming a friendly takeover target.

So why am I describing all this on a writers’ blog? Well, I admit it has nothing to do with my primary topic here--pets. But it has a lot to do with creativity, and the birth and nurturing of writing ideas. The other day, while walking from my Metro station to the building where my current law job is, I got an idea for another mystery series. This trip down memory lane gave the idea some additional perspectives.

Will I ever plot even one story in that possible series? Write it? Who knows? But it has been fun thinking even more about the idea, especially in the context of giving even more import to this delightful nostalgic episode. Amazing, how ideas just flow and multiply at times if a writer lets them!



Monica Ferris said...

That's a sweet example of "where do you get your ideas?" The writer is always open to ideas, sort of like a permanent link that is always clicked. Nice post!

Anonymous said...

I ride the light-rail system to and from my job in Downtown Dallas. It's a wonderful system, although it, too, has had a few glitches along the way, but it stil beats sitting in nightmare traffic. And it's 30 minutes each way of guilt-free reading! Most of the time I"m absorbed in the book I"m reading, but there have been times I've finished the book, which leaves time to people-watch and wonder just what's hidden back in that deserted section of woods. Sure-fire story ideas.

Deb Baker said...

Years ago, I wrote a short story that was published in a literary journal. The story opened with a limo driving up a road lined with cherry trees on both sides. I pass that lane almost every day and remember how a small thing like a glimmer of an idea can grow large and bear fruit.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...


I think a change of routine is a key element to creativity. Jiggles the brain cells, right?

Linda O. Johnston said...

Ideas really are everywhere, if writers are open to them! Changes in routine can certainly be helpful, Joanna. This idea came about partly because I happened to notice something I hadn't paid attention to before while on the same old walk--so even looking a different direction can help. And the real change in routine the next day certainly added to the possibilities...

I often wonder about the backgrounds of other Metro riders. Haven't tried putting them in a story yet, but maybe someday. I do treasure the time for editing and reading!