“You can’t tell the forecast by peeking out the blinds.” jb
As I paid for my coffee at a Wawa one morning the cashier pointed to my shirt and asked what it meant. Unable to recall what I’d thrown on that day (it was before my coffee, after all) I looked down at the picture of worn hiking shoes and the words “Not all who wander are lost.” I told the young woman that, to me, it meant that it’s all about the adventure, regardless your destination.
That morning in Wawa came to mind recently as I read about British poet Jean Sprackland who wrote, “When I am writing I am only happy when I have no idea what I’m doing.” I don’t believe for a second that Sprackland doesn’t know what she is doing, but I do believe a writer can begin a story with a plan, and then follow the flow of the characters and scenes to arrive at a better story.
Much is made of the writer’s room. Granted, it’s important to have a dedicated workspace that is conducive to creativity, where your imagination can flow through your fingers onto the page. But most writers agree that ideas and stories aren’t conceived with a pen in hand or fingers on the keyboard. Stories happen in day-to-day life–in the wilderness and at the supermarket, banging nails and mowing the lawn, in homes and on street corners, on trains and at race tracks, in bedrooms and inside pubs. Ideas take shape in mundane jobs and on the battlefield, jumping out of an airplane and hiding in a closet, running from the law and trekking the white blaze on the Appalachian Trail, or the Schuylkill trail for that matter.
Painter Grant Wood, the author of American Gothic, which along with the Mona Lisa are the two most recognizable paintings in the world, said that despite his travels and European training, he’d “realized that all the really good ideas I’d ever had came to me while I was milking a cow. So I went back to Iowa.” I’ve been fortunate to visit inspiring places like Pikes Peak, Mount Rainier, Mont Blanc, and the Cliffs of Moher, yet many of my stories come back to the streets and waterfront of Philadelphia.
Writers and poets need a dedicated place to practice their craft, a place conducive to solitude and creativity, but for heavens sake get out into the world to write your stories.