Jul 25, 2014

Lets Get Lost - Why Airports are Great for Writers


Why Airports are Great for Writers

One of my ultimate go-tos for inspiration is people-watching, and there’s no greater place than an airport to people watch. The sheer mass and diversity of people, the potential for imagined stories. I could sit at an airport and watch for hours even if I didn’t have a flight. I have done that, actually. When I lived in Vegas, sometimes I’d go to the airport baggage claim with a friend and some coffee and we’d try to guess where everyone was coming from, try to decipher airport codes we weren’t familiar with.

Airports offer the freedom to observe. You have a few hours before your flight boards to do nothing but see all sorts of people gathered together, to imagine whatever you want about them, even if you are wildly wrong. Grab some coffee and sit at your gate, take a seat at the overpriced bar or at a restaurant that faces out at the terminal, put a book in front of you in case traffic slows down, a notebook next to that, keep an ear perked for eavesdropping some conversation. Watch the material come to you.

And if you’re the type of writer that gets inspiration from other people’s lives, stealing away their details for later creative use (aren’t we all that kind of writer?), just start talking to someone. Even with the walking-on-eggshells feeling that airports sometimes have these days, where your bags must be with you at all times and suspicious behavior might be defined as not getting any cream cheese with your bagel, people are still extremely open to each other at airports. The fact that everyone is just passing through opens people up to conversation, I’ve found. Seatmates in particular, but at bookstores and restaurants and anywhere else you might find yourself sitting next to someone at an airport. If they find you annoying and don’t want to talk, they’ll let you know by answering only in grunts and continuing to read their magazine. But sometimes they’ll unload their stories on you, like the flight attendant for Air Force Two whom I met and had traveled the world (something like 87 countries?). Or the poor diplomat from Ecuador whose flight from New York to Mexico to Ecuador turned into a five-stop 24-hour+ nightmare.

Attractive people you’ll never see again, groups of teens dreaming of adventures, escapes, reunions, dreading the leaving of them. So many little scenes from daily life, on display for a much larger audience. Mothers trying to place a fast food order for a family of six, a couple already reminiscing about their trip, siblings ignoring each other with headphones. Businessmen on phone calls, working on their computers with a cup of coffee in hand, unwinding at the corner seat of the bar.


Where there are people there are stories, simply put.