the years, when discussing my writing, I generally get presented
with some similar questions. Two take some form of:
Where do your ideas come from?
Why do you write?
questions are unique and different. And a few contains the same
concepts. I never tire of hearing any of them.
a weird thing though, because I don’t know that I have ever answered
either question with anything resembling the same answer. (And
that’s not because I’ve come across better answers or in some
way changed my mind. Don’t you dare accuse me of growing, learning
and maturing. (Umm… I mean…))
ideas tend to come from all over the place, which probably shouldn’t
be surprising given how most of my published and shared efforts
have been non-fiction in nature and even more specifically observational
essays. And for this material, there isn’t one particular influence
or inspiration. It can happen in just about any situation.
other day I was driving on a road near our house. There are several
corn fields along the road. Both sides. There’s an old saying
about corn. “Knee-high by the fourth of July.” I seem to think
about that expression every year but can never remember that “knee-high”
part. I ask crazy questions. (“Was it thigh high?” “…hip high?”
“Knee high doesn’t seem that high for the fourth of July. I want
corn on the cob and that doesn’t sound near ready.”)
this particular morning, that corn was sending me into a whirlwind.
I was driving and couldn’t look the expression up. Then I started
wondering if our local produce store had any corn on the cob yet.
Which in turn led me to wondering about how there could be fresh
corn available at produce stands and farmers markets featuring
locally sourced vegetables if it was only a week or so after that
knee-high measuring stick that everyone supposedly used for determining
how the crops were doing.
that, in quite a general and sweeping way, I suppose is about
as good as anything when it comes to explaining where my ideas
come from. Something happens, I begin thinking about it, and for
whatever reason I don’t readily have anything that allows me to
answer a question or stop the train that has begun rolling downhill.
Eventually I stumble across a portion of the tangents that motivates
me to explore it and write. For instance…
was washing laundry and had to deal with a white shirt. I hate
white shirts in the laundry. I always have this fear that I’m
going to end up ruining them. Not because of some comical though
standard laundry-related problem, such as tossing them in with
something red. Instead, because of things like the clothesline
and thoughts that I’ll end up smudging something on the shirt.
Nothing like a clothespin and a white shirt to drive you a bit
corn did lead me to an essay idea, about how everything in the
garden always seems to be ready to pick on the same day. The white
shirt, not so much. But the thought process is there. For the
non-fiction work I do, impulses and origins can begin just about
any place at any time. Sometimes I sit, deliberately think, and
come up with an idea. Other times, and this I have said before,
I’m just sitting on the park bench watching the world go by.
suppose the connecting elements come down to this: I want to share
the story. I want to use my voice… my writing… and present my
opinions and observations. And that, in turn, is how my ideas
eventually meet up with the actual writing.
years ago, I received an e-mail. A person I had never met had
been doing some internet research. A strange combination of search
terms had managed to bring up an essay I had produced and posted
on my web site. It didn’t help with her project, but it did bring
a smile to her day and she wanted me to know.
other day I received a phone call from someone that I had been
discussing the publishing process with for a few months. He was
moving along to the end of the project and had reached a point
where several author copies of the book had arrived at the house.
He was thrilled, and more important than that, sounded happy about
how things had turned out.
is, in every writer, an ego. Has to be, regardless of whether
we are willing to admit it or not. We have an idea, believe it’s
worth sharing, and are convinced you should listen. The written
word is how we present it to our audience. (And we are beyond
insulted—although usually politely and quietly—when people express
opinions that suggest writing is not a talent and something anyone
could do with ease. But these are stories for another day… maybe.)
it can be more than that. Learning about things to satisfy a curious
mind. Connecting with people. Exploring and smiling and creating
and on and on.
on many levels and in many ways. All of which are important, though
none likely need to be defined. And it brings us to some crazy
destinations. Like me right now, in a place where I need to find
some fresh corn on the cob.