I have a friend who is fond of saying that success happens when preparation meets opportunity.
As someone who makes a living from writing, part of my preparation is never to leave home without taking a Moleskine notebook and my Panasonic DMC-LX1 camera tucked into my tatty manbag. So I can scribble things down whenever an idea hits me, or photograph anything interesting I spot.
The other day, for all kinds of complicated reasons, I found myself in a museum suddenly struck by an idea of penetrating brilliance after looking at a display case of dried moths. Handily I whipped out my notebook and started making notes which later turned into a poem.
Recently I found myself sitting opposite a rather eccentric woman, knitting furiously on a crowded commuter train. Thanks to my notebook I could record what said to the man, a complete stranger, taking a seat next to her:
“Do you have a cold?” She said looking up rather ferociously from her knitting.
“Good. Because the way to stop getting colds,” she paused darkly, “is not to sit next to one.”
Who knows where I’ll use this yet. But it is the sort of dialogue that’s hard to make up. It’s a moment magpied away for future use.
Most importantly though, carrying a notebook and a camera changes your attitude, and your vantage point. When you go for a walk, you are not just getting some exercise or travelling from A to B. You are a collector, full of attention, on a mission to collect source material.