I live in farm country. Each spring is planting season here in central Illinois, and when fall rolls around it’s harvest season.
But for writers, it’s planting and harvest season year-round.
I know what you’re thinking. What are authors farming? Words? Stories?
In this case, the answer is inspiration. Everything in our environment can plant ideas, and if we keep our eyes open, we can harvest inspiration daily.
And what better way to harvest ideas than by writing them down in a journal?
I know, I know. Every writer already knows the value of keeping a journal. But I feel like I need to remind writers why they’re useful. Mostly because I’ve been reminded lately why they’re useful.
I’ve kept an idea journal for years, but I’ve had the bad habit of leaving it at home and not having it with me at all times. Lately, though, I’ve made a concentrated effort to keep it within reach 24 hours a day. And I’ve been surprised at how often I find myself reaching for it.
Examples of notes the past week or so include:
- While watching an episode of “Chopped” on Netflix (cooking competitions on Netflix are my guilty pleasure), all of the contestants were food truck drivers. In the brief interviews conducted with the four contestants, I got a snapshot of life on a food truck, and I took notes based on those interviews in case I want to write a character who’s a food truck driver in the future.
- At work, I was editing an obituary when I came across the name Clell. I jot down any names I come across and would like to use for future characters.
- The surname Pilkerson popped into my head one afternoon (it’s a real surname, although I haven’t found the source where I originally encountered it). I jotted it down with a note to give a character the last name Pilkerson and nickname them “Pilkey” throughout the story.
- The beginning of a story (but not the middle or end) occurred to me while driving home one afternoon, so I jotted down two pages’ worth. (I wrote it down once I got in the driveway, not while I was still driving — I can barely turn on the radio without drifting toward the shoulder, so I definitely couldn’t manage penning two pages with one hand on the wheel).
The journal pages get filled with tidbits here and there. It may not be the same as the bushels or truckloads of grain farmers haul away from an afternoon’s work in their fields, but those daily tidbits of idea and inspiration on the page can turn into full stories or books later.
To look at it another way: Some of the grain that gets harvested by farmers has to be stored to be planted next year. All of those little ideas we harvest eventually get planted and grow into something far bigger and better.