It’s only now that I realize I’ve been “harvesting” all of my life. When I step back to take a look, I see that, first, I’ve gathered, then tucked, all kinds of invisible things safely away into my basket for future use. I have always taken in and dissected my experiences, or the experiences of others (even strangers), extracting the thing which stood out the most to me—the thing that made me feel the most. It’s usually something I can’t quite name, but I take it in all the same.
As a child, I had no idea what it was like to live in a house with multiple floors and a backyard. I lived in a housing project with many other families. Yet, while traveling by bus or on foot, I watched as people came and went from those mysterious houses, taking what I could from their interactions with others, their demeanor or facial expressions. My own neighborhood provided something too: I watched as the elderly rolled their grocery carts to and from stores and took in the lives of the other kids as they played on the stoop or interacted with their parents and strangers. My first book, The Trouble with Half a Moon, relied heavily on my old neighborhood bringing all of that and more out and into the open.
I imagine all writers must do something similar, and that is why we’re able to “write what we know” without actually experiencing the “thing” ourselves. This is why writers can write with emotional truth.
We will forever gather those unnamed things and use them to the best of our ability, enabling others to then feel the most, and to know the things which they've never experienced themselves. If we are able to achieve this, then we've gathered well and wisely.