imageI’m jealous of writers who can see a phrase or a word as a prompt and, an hour later, have hammered out at least a rough draft of something they can then hone into a decent story or poem. My problem is, I think, once the idea has presented itself to me, I can quite quickly talk myself out of even starting to write it, thus robbing me of seeing where that seed will take me. It’s a bad habit and I’m doing my best to overcome it.

Other times, though not nearly frequently enough, I can skip the idea generation almost completely and the story appears to me fully formed. This happened back in 2011 with a story called I Fought The War (And The War Won), which was picked up by the glorious and now sadly defunct Night Train.

It happened again more recently in November 2012 with Evidence of Terrestrial Life, which has gone live today over at Writers Who Rock. No, I’m not sure why it’s accompanied with a picture of a teddy bear either.

(STOP PRESS — The teddy bear has gone. Must’ve been a mistake rather than a deliberate placement of a stuffed animal. Which is nice.)

Anyway. I’m a sucker for astronomy and while trawling the backwaters of Wikipedia on the matter, I read about a huge observatory out in the Atacama in Chile. Through following a few links, I soon stumbled upon information about the dissidents of Pinochet’s regime who had been murdered and dumped in the same location and because of the arid atmosphere, their bodies are often preserved in perfect condition to the extent that searching widows have been known to find their loved ones.

The image of all this technology out in the middle of nowhere coupled with old women seeking closure was so striking in my head that it didn’t take long to spot the comparisons about the scientists and widows both looking into the past for their own versions of evidence. Add in my favourite tropes of loneliness and isolation and the story pretty much wrote itself after that.

This was also the first story I wrote after moving from Scotland to Michigan and was the first time I’d put the figurative pen to equally figurative paper for six months. Regardless of the quality of the story, it was something of a relief to write something new and to discover that I hadn’t left my desire or ability to write back at the departures lounge in Edinburgh Airport. In the months that have followed, I think I’ve written some of my best work, both in short stories and poetry. It feels like I’m at an exciting and interesting point in my writing career.

You can have a read of Evidence of Terrestrial Life by following this link: