The Chronicler’s Safari

treasure_mapWhat happens when a writer feels empty? I’m not talking about writer’s block, or the times I can’t think of what a character should say or do next. I mean empty…like when there are no stories left in me.

This happens on occasions when I’ve been pushing really hard and have just completed a project, attended a book event, and participated in a panel for young writers all within a very  short time frame. In short I’m spent and I feel as I have been wrung dry of every story idea. If I were to sit in front of the computer nothing would happen, except maybe a game of solitaire or two.

It’s during times like these I am presented with a couple of choices: I can either sit in front of the television and become a vegetable or I can go on a story safari. It is often tempting to plant myself before the ‘one-eyed monster’ (as my mother called it), but the better, more exciting choice is to go on the hunt. So I pack my gear and head out into the story wilderness.

You might ask where that would be and what gear I need. I’ll start by listing the vital pieces of equipment needed on such a quest. My rucksack is filled with a digital camera for still photos and video and a digital recorder (a smartphone can be substituted for both of these items). I also carry a writing tablet, sketch pad, a couple of pencils (soft lead, of course), a bottle of water, and a protein bar.

The territory I cover is vast: the mall, the park, the movie theater, fast food restaurants, and these are just a few of the places I explore. When I get there I observe the denizen in their natural habitat. I make note of how they talk, the way they interact, and what they wear. I pay close attention to how they address or ignore their elders, especially how they whine and wheedle to get what they want. Without fail I come home with new story ideas.

Do I only go on safari when I’m empty? Absolutely not! I go out often because you ever know when a new idea will strike. Have my fans ever spotted me on one of my treks? As a matter of fact they have. They will often ask if I saw what just happened and will that be in one of my books. My answer is always: You never know what lurks in the heart and mind of a writer…the pages will tell the tale.

12 thoughts on “The Chronicler’s Safari

  1. Ha! I love this post! I admit, I have never run out of stories. (I currently have a dozen waiting their turn on paper.) But I do know that total drain of creative resources. I usually just need to recharge for a few weeks with a stack of good books. But your people watching idea is fantastic! 🙂

    1. Hi Michelle,

      I know what you mean, but sometimes I worry that my ideas might be stale or outdated. Whenever I ‘people watch’ my ideas get a fresh coat of paint (and sometimes a total remodel).

  2. Great post Stephannie! I always go on a hike through the woods when I reach that point. It always seems to help me come up with an idea or solve a plot problem! 🙂

  3. Wonderful post! I’m a serious people watcher too. Walking the dog around the neighborhood is another way I like to let loose and get the creative juices flowing again. It is easy to get sucked into the maw of the one-eyed monster (love that, I had a relative refer to TV that way too), but much better to get out into the world and see and feel it.

  4. That’s a high-five post, Stephanie! We writers always need to pause, take a break, or recharge our batteries. Your suggestion of taking a story safari is brilliant! And don’t we authors love going after the big game! Cheers!

    1. That’s right, Sharon! It is the big game we’re after, always looking for another trophy to add to the collection.

  5. Great post Stephanie 🙂 I really enjoyed your idea and plan to implement it in the future. Do you think that a safari hat and a pair of binoculars would be too obvious? ;0p

    1. Thanks, Ima. I think you could get away with the pith helmet, but the binoculars might make you stand out a little. Happy tale hunting, I hope you nab the big one!

  6. A story safari? Brilliant!! I’ve never thought about doing that–but I will from now on! 🙂 Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  7. Am finally back to leave a comment. When this post first came out, I wasn’t able to leave a comment at the time, but this is such a great post, Stephanie. Love your idea of a story safari! 🙂

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