What 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.