I'm not talking about thinking of a friend and then they call or email you. But really out of the ordinary kinds of things. Just recently I thought of Michael Learned, the actress who played the mother on The Waltons. I wondered how she was and what she was up to. Then bam! The next she's on the main page of aol with a 'See how she looks at 72'. Now, what made her jump into my brain the day before? This sort of thing happens to me often.
I'd had recently written what I intended to be a humorous piece called Hadassah Jones [posted elsewhere on this site] - a Jewish woman married to an African-American man and how they've managed to mesh their cultures. Of course I crammed in every stereotype I could think of to make it funny. The drapes nearly caught fire from the Menorah candles and those of the Kwanzaa Kinara. My kids found my Mike Myers/Linda Richman reading of it to be amusing. The next day online, there's a video of a mashup of rappers over a scene from Fiddler on a Roof. Zeitgeist? Go figure.
My current WIP is a middle grade fiction for boys (girls are welcome to read it as well) set in the 14th Century. I don't recall ever having an interest in this time period but woke one morning with the title in my head and let it ferment for a while. I've really been enjoying the research involved as well as writing it. Discovering the etiology or origin of words - that are still used in our lexicon today - amazes me. Words that have survived the centuries. Bouncer, for instance, originated back in those medieval times when a patron to a pub had to pay the fellow at the door to get in (ancient cover charge - to cover any damage from a mead-induced ruckus) and the doorman/bouncer would actually bounce the coin on a piece of wood to see if it was real or a slug.
Having created an entire kingdom and writing in the pre-Elizabethan speak, I thought perhaps I'd gotten in over my head and wondered if I'd really be able to do this. The next morning on my drive to work I turned on the radio and heard some old music that I knew instantly was music my characters would have heard in their day played by minstrels, troubadours, and castle musicians. When the music stopped the DJ said it was a piece of music from the 14th Century. I took that as a sign that I was meant to finish writing my WIP. Zeitgeist?