A Harvest Of Ideas

Written from: Guest Room, evening

It’s almost time for fall harvest. I spent nearly ten years living in a farming community and one thing that always struck me about harvest time was the urgency of it. It wasn’t approached at a leisurely pace. Farmers worked from early morning to well into the night to bring in crops as quickly as possible. It was important to harvest the crops at their peak, and there was no waiting around once that peak was reached.

As writers, we sometimes find ourselves waiting for inspiration to strike. We wait for ideas to come into our heads and urge us to write. But what if we approached inspiration the same way farmers approach harvest time? Instead of waiting around for ideas to strike, we could work diligently to harvest a crop of inspiration at its peak. How? To use the farm analogy, the crops don’t plant themselves, and neither do ideas. We have to use our skills to find inspiration in the world around us, then use that inspiration with urgency, not letting it go to waste. A good idea must be recorded right when it occurs to you, or you might lose it forever. I keep notebooks everywhere around my house for just such occasions. Notes apps on phones and iPads serve the same purpose.

Some of planting ideas comes from observation. Writers are great at observing the world around them. Taking it a step further and taking those observations are recording them gives you an idea book for when you start writing projects. I like to watch people around me while I’m in line or in traffic and make up a story about who they are and where they’re going. When I think about the possible background of people, you’re essentially making up characters. Observing the details of the things happening around you, both in the activity and the place you go, gives you good practice creating plots and settings.

Once you’ve recorded those ideas, you can review them and harvest the ones that you can transform into a good story, essay, or novel. That harvest of ideas creates a crop full of good writing. With your collection of ideas, your writing becomes more urgent and you never have to wait around for inspiration again.