I was not happy during my last few years of work, and I drank a lot as a result. I would often stop off at a bar after work for one or two martinis (two). I found bars to be a peaceful place to escape my everyday woes for an hour. Not interested in conversation with anyone at the bar, including with the bartender, I would grab a few cocktail napkins to busy myself in writing notes for my staff or for a meeting the next day or, more and more frequently as time passed, haiku poetry because its short length suited the limited space on a napkin. This kind of writing has trained me to condense my thoughts to their core meaning, which, over time, I came to call “cocktail napkin thoughts”.
Even now, sans cocktail napkins, when the desire to write about something creatively first comes, I generally start by trying to capture the essence of my thinking in a Haiku. If I cannot contain the thought there, I gradually allow myself additional syllables and then additional lines to get it right, eventually abandoning poetry when necessary for the greater irregularity and rhythmic variety of prose. Cocktail napkin thoughts have also allowed me to write about small things, things that generally wouldn’t merit putting pen to paper for most writers, though I’m only guessing about this last point.
My focus tends to be on the small encounters and thoughts that we experience each day. Many times, these small matters affirm our existence, though they may come with caveats; and sometimes these matters are ethereal, like the illusive, faint sweetness of the drop of nectar on a honeysuckle stamen, a taste that is both there and not there at the same time. These matters are all small, but they do matter because they are largely all we have.
Since these stories and poems are inspired by my own experiences, early on I began taking photographs with my cell phone at the time of inspiration, which helped me remember my thoughts until I got home to write them down. I found I liked the photos and, at some point, I decided to include them in my work. Now, I sometimes go back to the scene of inspiration when possible to take photos after the fact with a more sophisticated camera, and sometimes I take a photo and only write about its inspiration months later. I like to say that the purpose of these photos is not to replace a thousand words, but to season a thousand words (or in my case, seventeen or a hundred words).
Somewhere along the line, I started putting my shorter works inside note cards with the accompanying photos on their covers. This was a good arrangement because it allowed me to associate a given text with a given photo without one becoming subordinate to the other. Then I discovered this WordPress site which accomplishes the same balance found in my notecards, but allows me to reach out to many, many more people.
2 thoughts on “Cocktail Napkin Thoughts”
I stumbled on your blog while perusing creative writing blogs on WordPress. I love your photography! I’m a relative local and maintain a list of area blogs that feature images and I’m going to add yours to the list. Lovely!
Thank you, Tia. I am honored to be on your list.