By Beth Crosby
We will probably survive the Carolina winter. Hopefully, we received our full allotment of ice and snow. Some suffered power outages. Others suffered cabin fever.
Native Carolinians know the weather won’t completely warm until after Easter. During the interim, we can apply what gardeners tell us about planting — to our writing. Now is the time to get those seeds planted in the greenhouse of imagination. Let them warm and germinate early so that they are ready to burst forth when the sun is bright and the earth warms.
While we’re cooped up inside, start brainstorming. Think of the great things you’ve read and seen during this chilly weather. What dreams have you had, day or night? Now is the time to record and catalog those ideas.
Write with as much detail as possible. If only a word inspires you, record it. But if you can embellish it to a paragraph, write it all. See where that word, sentence, or paragraph takes you. Day or night.
Keep a pad by your bed with a pen. Write what keeps you awake — ideas, worries, people. Record those thoughts on paper. Then read them when you wake up. My experience is that my writing in the dark is not legible, even to me, a few hours after I wake. But you might jot down enough that is readable to trigger your memory yhe next morning.
When the idea stirs, write a short story. Plant the seeds of stories, poems, characters, or whatever else you want to write. Do you have dreams during the night about people or circumstances that you have not consciously thought about in months or years? Make a habit of writing down your dreams.
Thoughts planted in our minds can take a long time to blossom. But if we intentionally plant the seed, water it with positive thoughts and consciously fertilize our imaginations with writing the inspirations, we can enjoy a bounty of interesting material to develop in writing.
Choose to focus on positive dreams and thoughts while understanding that scary dreams or odd scenarios might well work in your writing. After all, Stephenie Meyer said the “Twilight” series came from a dream. Several books and a series of box office hits later, she is a household name. (http://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/worklife/11/18/o.twilight.newmoon.meyer/index.html?iref=nextin)
After we nurture our thoughts, words, sentences and paragraphs, we can transplant them from small containers into the rich soil of time allocated to writing. We can pick one little seedling from our list. We might pick another seedling to place alongside it. If they cross-germinate, you could get a beautiful bloom you never expected.
Of course, some pruning is necessary. You will cut some of the blooms, and if you cut one perfect blossom, you might sacrifice a few tiny buds. But remember, you can put blooms in water or a rooting medium. Sometimes, they root and become a new plant. You might prune a character or a scene. But then, perhaps that elimination is the opportunity to write (or root) sequels or novels using similar characters.
An example of a current offshoot story is that of Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist and crime writer who lives in Charlotte. She began writing nearly 20 novels in the “Bones” series about a forensic anthropologist named Temperance Brennan in 1997, which spun off a television series that began airing on FOX in 2005. Then Kathy and her adult son Brendon developed a series of Young Adult (YA) novels called “Virals” based on Temperance’s great-niece, Tory. These books debuted in 2010. The teen and her friends are intelligent and inquisitive, and they find themselves solving crimes much like Aunt Tempe.
Pay attention, as well, to how many years passed between “Deja Dead”, the first book to introduce “Bones” and the spin-off series, “Virals”. Meanwhile, Ms. Reichs released a book about “Bones” nearly every year in between.
In a nutshell, write down whatever crosses your mind as interesting. You never know when it might grow, like a vine of English Ivy, covering the gutters of your mind, manifesting in a lovely setting. For example, my bed crashed beneath me the other night when the slats moved. I hurt my shoulder, and the dog slept through it. The story is boring, but it could be a great short story about the dog, spiteful mice, poor maintenance, or a tale warning that whenever you make your bed, you should consider turning or flipping the mattress and checking the slats to be sure they are secure.
This might be a time to “collaborate” with someone strong enough to do the heavy lifting of moving the mattress, or, metaphorically, have someone look over a few ideas to see which need to mature longer and which are ready.
In this interim between snowy interruptions and our warm spring, diligently plant inspiration in the fertile soil of your mind. And equally as important, pull out any seeds of doubt. Rip out any runners from the past that choke your positive thoughts, creativity and willingness to let your imagination flourish, blossom, and share the beauty of your thoughts with others. Then, perhaps most important, record that beauty for posterity, and WRITE IT DOWN!
This column first appreared in YC Magazine February 15, 2016.