Sunday, November 30, 2014

Harvesting Insight

When I sat down to write THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY years ago, all I had was a girl in my head sitting on some pretty decrepit porch stairs wearing a pair of Mary Janes. Her grandmother hovered in the background, and somewhere in the ether, her mother was floating between life and The Beyond. Ultimately, the story didn't work itself into a magical realism tale, even though I would have liked that very much, or a ghost story, though I would have liked that, too. It worked itself into a story about grief and finding home.

As a writer, I've been asked where my ideas come from. Mostly I haven't known how to answer because it's always felt like Grace and her story came from nowhere. Or everywhere. But when I read the word "harvest" as the writing prompt this month, it came to me that a novel is a harvesting of experience. My ideas come from the seeds I have tended in my own life. As we create characters and a world around them, decide where they walk and what moves them, we can't help but look to what we believe to give them purpose and direction.

When I sat down all those years ago to write about Grace, I didn't know it would involve getting into the muck of my life's experiences. But doing anything worthwhile means disturbing the muck, I've found. And after all those years of working and dreaming and disturbing, I finally had a harvest of words sitting on a bookshelf.

I also had something far more valuable. A better understanding of myself.

I don't know what I'll say in the future when people ask where my ideas come from. Probably something along the lines of seeds and life experience and something else fantastically awkward because I have a hard time talking to actual people. But I'm hopeful I'll find a way to talk about harvesting insight. Because that is the key to everything. And without it, we are lost.

Truly.

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