I post this prompt about once a year, but I should do it more, because this is a way that a lot of authors get inspired. I call it “The Starbucks Method”.
Go to a public place where you can sit close enough to hear peoples’ conversations without invading anyones’ space. Coffee places are a great place to do this because you can go alone, sit near people, and not seem like a creep. Bars also work, although not everyone likes to go to those alone, but just think how writerly you’ll seem if you go to a bar alone for the purpose of collecting inspiration. If you take public transportation, that works too.
Once you’re in clear hearing-range of someone else’s conversation, see if anything they say sparks you. If you go to a Starbucks for an hour, try to write at least 2 short pieces (200-800 words) based on what you hear. It doesn’t have to be a full story—maybe a woman is talking about her friend and you do a character sketch of the friend, or you catch a piece of an anecdote and fill the rest of the story in for yourself.
I know what some of you are thinking: Is this rude? Aren’t we not supposed to eavesdrop? I look at it this way—if someone is going to go to a public place and have a conversation in hearing range of other people, the content of that conversation is up for grabs. Besides, it’s just a personal writing exercise.
If you come up with some cool tidbits, as always, submit them! I’d especially love if a piece had an intro like, “I overheard a man talking about how his nephew drove off a bridge, and I had the idea for the following story:”