Here in the southeastern United States, spurred by spectacular spring blossoms and a too-long winter, we’ve been planting flower and vegetable seeds indoors since early April. Some have sprouted and developed their first true leaves. Others have died of too much or too little water. And, of course, there are those that never showed any signs of life and have been replaced by still other seeds in an effort to fill vacancies in our greening landscape.
My writing process is much the same as seed-sowing. I find it obnoxious when a writer walks around with a notebook or cell phone recording this description or that turn of phrase. It may work for them, but I think it’s like blowing one’s nose. It’s best done in private. Besides, I figure, if an idea’s good, I’ll remember it; if I forget, I’ll think of something better. Thus, I save recording activities for my writing sessions. Random ideas fill .doc files on my hard drive.
Some quickly develop into publishable work while others remain unfinished, awaiting additional inspiration. Still more stubbornly stare back from the near-empty screen, daring me to remember why I saved them in the first place.
The first group doesn’t hang around long. It has places to go and people to see. The second group needs revisiting, nurturing with additional thought or maybe a different approach. In this group, words or phrases become paragraphs or stanzas awaiting expansion and resolution. The final group meets the delete key. I’m ruthless here. If an idea truly doesn’t spark an additional something in short order, a fresh idea takes its place.
I revisit my files frequently. Not everything planted there matures at the same pace. Some originally promising thoughts turn toes-up despite (or because of) my concentrated efforts. Others combine into interesting hybrids requiring further encouragement. Still others undergo point mutations and develop in new, unexpected directions.
Eventually, my landscape fills in with interest and color. It satisfies my need to create beauty.
With a lot of luck and hard work, hopefully my “published” file does, too.
Fred Waiss is a former high school teacher and coach who writes poetry, articles, short stories, novellas, and novels as the muse attacks; as an author he considers himself a work in progress.