Think Labor Day is a boring holiday? Not for writers

Monday is Labor Day. What does that mean, besides a long weekend, parades, lots of advertising circulars featuring barbecue grills, and thoughts about going back to school? What is this holiday for? What are we celebrating?

History.com says: “In 1894, Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday after a failed attempt to break up a railroad strike. Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers.” Visit History.com at http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/labor-day for the whole story.

That’s the official view. Personally, the only thing I’m celebrating this weekend is the departure of the tourists from our coastal town. I’ll be working.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, as with every holiday, it’s a source of ideas. If you read the information at the history.com website, working conditions in the pre-union era were awful for many people. Long hours, no safety precautions, children being put to work instead of going to school. What if you set a fictional story in a factory in 1880? For example, entire families worked in the cloth mills in Fall River, Massachusetts. What if you wrote about a mother and her child sent to work there? What might happen to them? What if the mother saw her son being mistreated and couldn’t do anything about it for fear of losing her job?

What kind of work situations have you experienced in your life? Have you designed microchips at a plant in Silicon Valley, sold shoes in Houston, or milked cows in Minnesota? Have you worked for terrible bosses who treated you badly or good ones you loved like family? What have you experienced on the job that could be turned into a story, either fictional or true? How have working conditions changed?

Spend some time observing somebody doing a job you’ve never done and write a poem or story about them. Or put on your reporter hat, do some research and write an article about some kind of work that interests you. You could even get a job completely out of your comfort zone, then write about it. Barbara Ehrenreich did that in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America She told the behind-the-scenes story of working at Wal-Mart and other low-pay, low-status jobs.

You see? I think  “Labor Day” and suddenly I’m typing away. You can do it too. Start brainstorming. Holidays. Work. Jobs. Lunch breaks. On-the-job romances.

Your turn. Let me know what you come up with.

Now go write.

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