the power of inspiration

As an English major with a creative writing emphasis, my mind is constantly thinking of new ideas. I had to turn in a new fiction piece recently and was having the hardest time coming up with something that I felt to be right for my final story as an undergrad. Typically I sit around and listen to music, flipping through pictures to find inspiration for my piece. I find that if I base it off of something that happened, even the slightest bit, I feel involved and invested in what is going to come out of it. I decided to take my searching to an online prompt catalog, and was jolted with excitement when I decided to base my story on a song. Music is something I am so passionate about, and to me, each song has a story. Even the stupid ones. There is something that inspired that song in one way or another, which is a neat way to go about writing a story based off of a song. I decided to narrow my options down to my favorite band: Plain White T’s. For years their songs have gotten me through some of the toughest times, as well as been the soundtrack to some of my happiest. No matter where I am or what I am doing, if I hear their song on the radio or in a store, I get the biggest smile on my face. It’s so rare to find an artist that can have that form of emotion over you. Some songs can take us back to a place or time where were were completely ourselves, and I had found that with PWT. Their recent EP “Should’ve Gone to Bed” came out right before summer, and I found out that I would get the chance to see them on my 21st birthday in their hometown of Chicago, IL. What a birthday present that was. I was so happy in those two hours I saw them in the zoo with my best friends. Every time I listen to that entire EP I think back to that perfect night and the pure happiness I experienced on June 22, 2013. 

To narrow it down further, I chose the title song “Should’ve Gone to Bed”, because it definitely tells a story, and I wanted to use it as something I could transfer into my own fiction. That feeling of regret that we have all experienced at one point in our lives due to a crazy night out is something we hate in the moment, but look back on as something to learn from experience. The story I ended up writing was about a girl who fell in love with a man all too quickly, to the point of obsession. I used the perspectives of both the man and woman to convey the regret that he had in the friendship he had formed, and the love he didn’t mean to. I have never felt so proud of a story I have written, and I give all of that credit to the Plain White T’s, or any music that has served as a muse for my work. I also had to give some form of dedication to my favorite album of theirs “Every Second Counts”, so I decided to plug that with the title. At the end, I realized that the passion that the woman in the story has for this man is based off of little moments and occurrences with him, so indeed to her, every second did count. I was rather excited to see this challenge ( because it was exactly where I have been the most inspired in my writing. 

Finally, I have attached to you my piece, “Every Second Counts”



Every Second Counts


I used to only miss you at midnight. There’s something about those late hours that brings about a sense of vulnerability in everyone, especially if they are alone. Most people with significant others, or even love interests in general, feel a little lonely later at night. It’s an entirely new mental state, but it also brings out the honest in everyone. I would find this time of night to be the peak of my creativity, so I lit my candles and tried to scribble down a poem or two of inspiration. But since you walked away, I’ve experienced the worst writer’s block of my life. It’s like someone crept into my mind and leaked out my creativity, which saddens me to the deepest extent. You brought so much beauty into my life in so many ways. I was skimming by, seeing things through a rather gray lens. Something was missing, and the minute you struck up conversation with me at Tracy’s in June, it felt like the puzzle had been completed. I began to notice the little things, like the rich smell of cinnamon when I walked past the bakery on my way to work, and the goofy runners in the park on my break during lunch.

The image of your chestnut hair being highlighted by the sun, as well as the sparkling oceans in your eyes was permanently planted on my mind. It was surreal the impact you had on my life, but I would not have had it any other way. You made me excited to wake up in the morning, even if you weren’t by my side in bed. I knew a phone call or a simple e-mail from you while we were both at work was bound to come my way, and that’s all I needed. There was only one word to describe our relationship: bliss. All of my girlfriends thought it was amazing that I had found love so quickly, but when you know, you know, right?

Do you remember when we went to Wrigley Field for your birthday with everyone? They were playing the Dodgers that day, so it was inevitable that the Cubs were going to have their asses handed to them, but we didn’t care. We all purchased our first hot dogs and beers for the game and took our seats in the left field bleachers. The sun was out that day, but there was a perfect amount of clouds that it wasn’t miserable for a July afternoon. In the middle of the fourth inning you had to go to the bathroom, and when you got up to leave your arm brushed against mine, causing my heart to skip a few beats. I’ve never been quite this enamored by someone before, but it felt right. I had yet to express my feelings for you, and I felt like that day was going to be the big day, especially with our plans to explore the city with all of the gang that night.

            The Chicago skyline at night is something one never forgets. There’s something about the way that the lights contrast against the dark sky that gives off a classic vibe. We were all taking pictures on the deck at the planetarium when you reached over and gave me a hug, thanking me for helping plan the best birthday you had ever had. Then you pulled Mike and Sarah in as well. There was something about that moment that felt like you really cared about me. Do you remember? I do. I’ve tried to write a poem about it, but it’s so incredibly overwhelming to try and put it into words, you just want to scream it from the mountaintops, at least that’s what I thought.

            That thought of screaming it from the mountaintops combined with my creative juices gave me the ultimate way to show you how I actually felt: Open Mic night at Joe’s Bar on Saturdays. We liked to get the gang together at the end of a long week to let loose over a couple beers and watch shitty singers try to pursue their drunken dreams. You had such faith in those less-than-hopefuls, and it was so cute. I loved the way that you tried to salvage their terrible vocals. You used to tell us  “give ‘em a chance, that could be you up there someday.” Well that day came, and you had no idea.

            When the DJ read my name next, our entire table looked shocked, but I had never felt so sure in what I was about to do. My heart was racing so fast I actually believed I might have been having a heart attack if that was even possible. This song had taken me a couple of hours to pen out, but all of my heart was able to compose itself for this song. Just like the way you fell into my life, this song fell into place. The backtrack was a bit cheesy, rather Taylor Swift-y, but I took the plunge:

            Here I am, standing ten feet tall

            Wondering if you’ve noticed me at all

            There’s really only way to do this,

            Three words for you.

            I love you.

            Please love me too.

I only looked into your eyes for those three seconds, but instead of the warm feeling I was anticipating, you looked at me with sheer horror. I thought that pointing out the smaller things that I adored would make you feel special. What did I do wrong? How can you feel that embarrassed? Seeing you walk out of that bar without saying a word, not even complimenting my efforts, threw me into the deepest hole, and I never wanted to come out of it.


I should’ve just gone to bed; I should’ve never called you. That song you wrote was absolutely terrifying to me, because you had just met me a month prior, and you decided you were head over heels in love with me? What kind of crap is that? A part of me wanted to feel flattered by the situation but at the same time, there is no way to look at that song as anything other than downright creepy. After walking down by the river for a bit, I decided that I could be the bigger person and try to resolve this with you, and try to let you down easy. When I dialed your number, I felt certain that I could have this conversation, but when you answered after one ring there was no way that I could talk to you. You were waiting for me, which only worsens this.

When I met you at that party back in June, I realized that you and I definitely had some things in common. For instance, you liked Cubs baseball just as much as I did. You also had close to identical taste in music as myself, including your double top-secret bubblegum pop collection. Maybe that was the red flag I missed. I have no fucking clue, honestly. I thought it was really chill to have a friend with so much in common. You were always ready to go out or hit up the bars, and knew exactly what I wanted or where I would want to go. Again, probably should have thought that was weird. I’ve never had a friend like that before so I never knew the distance.

I’m glad I took time to distance myself from you after that night at Joe’s, because it seemed as though you only could get worse. For weeks you called me multiple times a day, and even if I rejected it you would call again. I get it, you wanted to talk, but I sure as hell was not ready. Then there was the time I saw you getting out of a cab in front of Watertower, and I knew I had to quickly turn around and go into the next available store with the hopes you had not seen me. That shit gets old really fast, because all I wanted was to live my life and move on from your crazy self. But, after the handful of letters you mailed to my apartment, I decided to give you a shot. You wanted to come over, but there was no way in hell that was happening. The Bean. Saturday. 2’ o clock. It’s one of the busiest tourist spots and I knew that if anything were to happen, someone would be around.         

When I walked up, you were pacing back and forth, which really creeped me out, but I had to get this over with. I had to get you over with. Your eyes looked bloodshot and your hair was really gross looking. The first words out of your mouth were “Oh thank God you’re here, I’ve been waiting for two hours.” Okay, what the hell. Two hours? Looks like you’ve been waiting for two days. I let you talk, but it translated to my mind as “Batshit crazy. Insane. Obsessed. Give me another chance.”

Give you another chance? Yeah right. Absolutely not. That’s almost like taking on a part-time job. It’s work being your friend now, because now I know that friendship isn’t all you want. The pressure of being around you would be annoying as hell and I am not even going to try that. The last thing I remember is telling you that it wouldn’t work, and you deserve happiness that is not in the form of me. What I really meant is that she needed to find someone who falls in love as easily as she does. Someone who freaks the fuck out as quickly as she does. I was in no way going to be her babysitter. We are adults at this point, and this behavior took me back to ninth grade, where girls made guys their entire lives. Hell no.


Watching you walk away from me, I felt myself lose feeling in my feet, and then my legs.  That numb feeling is one that only comes when emotion takes control of your body and you simply do not know how to handle what is going on. When you got into the cab, I considered following you back home one last time to try again, but I figured that was useless. You really did not want me in your life. How do we go from being so close to just all of a sudden being strangers? How do I move forward from that? Is that even possible?

For the next couple of weeks I tried to find new coffee shops to go to, as well as new routes to work. I knew at some point there was going to be a day I ran into you and just burst into tears. You were the love of my life, what else was I supposed to do? When it officially hit two weeks from our meeting, I decided to just gather up my works for you into a book, and ship them off to you.  That was my way of closure. In the process of putting it together, it took me down memory lane. A sudden rush of sadness took over my body and I curled up in a ball and just cried. I didn’t answer the phone for days, nor did I leave my apartment. I had finally hit that state of darkness, and you put me there, you bastard. I loved you so much, and you gave me nothing in return except cold cruelty. Hate is a strong word, but I really, really do not like you.

That book stayed under my bed for a couple more weeks, and I decided that it was best to not send it.  I spent my afternoons in the park feeding the birds and not answering calls. Was I ever going to find another pair of ocean eyes to gaze into? I hoped so, and then I saw you with her. 

You two were walking into the House of Blues to see The 1975. I heard they were a new band, but I refused to give them a listen because I figured you had already. Turns out I was right. But why are you with her? When we were friends, you told me that she was nothing like what you were looking for. She seems so superficial. The way she walks, everything about her, I despise. She’s nothing compared to me. I hoped you hadn’t seen me standing outside, but you did, and you rushed away. I had just gotten over what had happened before, but this made it worse. That book is leaving my house. You deserve to know how much I loved you and cared about you, because you deserve it more than that skanky twat you had dangling on your arm.


That fucking book. That is what fucking threw me over the edge and decided to file that restraining order. That restraining order which you still decide to go against on occasion. That’s right. I’ve seen you outside The Bottom Lounge when I go to local shows. I’ve seen you walking near The Cubbie Bear. I decided not to say anything as long as you don’t approach me. I really hope that that doesn’t happen because I love this city too fucking much to move away from it, but if you ever spoke to me again that is what I would force myself to do. You’re an absolute psychopath and a normal dude like me does not deserve to be followed by some weirdo like you. How are you even old enough to live on your own in Chicago? You’re 22 years old and you follow me around like a sick puppy. For the love of God, move on. Please.


I only missed you at midnight, but now I miss you all of the time. In the beginning you were a beautiful set of eyes that opened me up to a beautiful mind. Now you’re still everything to me, and I will do anything to have you back. I refuse to stop now. I want to end my writer’s block. I miss being creative. I miss being able to write poems and smell the cinnamon when I walked by the coffee shop. I miss appreciating the little things.





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