Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Compost Pile

This past year we decided to build a better garden. It was pretty successful since it gave us dozens of tomatoes, a couple dozen cucumbers, some green peppers, and a variety of other vegetables. We also decided to try something different with the fall and winter seasons by throwing all the dead leaves from the yard into the garden. Who knows how this will turn out in the spring, but I've read in multiple places that decaying, organic material is good for a garden. I already experimented earlier with putting coffee grounds around the tomato plants. The results were decent and I just may throw some more in the compost pile as the winter wears on.

Ideas, too, can sometimes be like a compost pile.

Over the past several months I had been reading a great deal of fiction, watching some old science fiction serials on DVD, and recently watched a few monster movies from the 50's, 60's and 70's. Some of the movies did not age particularly well, but the ideas were good. I've also spent the past four or five years reading tons of storm chaser logs (online), reading some storm books, and watching every storm documentary I could get my hands on at the local library.

Now, however, I think it's time for a vacation. Time to put aside the movies, books, and articles and not do a whole lot of anything.

Sort of like the garden.

Ideas sometimes need time to percolate, and sometimes I've learned (usually the hard way) that when writing, if the ideas start to run out, it's time to stop pressing and trying so hard. It's time to back up, take a break, and pick things up in a few weeks. I have plans this year to publish three books: one non-fiction, one collection of short stories, and one novel. The non-fiction book has been written and needs editing, and I've been writing several short stories over the past few weeks. The novel is also in the planning stages.

So if I need a vacation, why did I agree, along with many others, to a challenge that involves 60,000 words in 29 days? Especially since I'll be out on vacation for some of those days? That's a pace of over 2,000 words a day, and maybe more in my case. I agreed because I wanted to create a big pile of compost.

No, seriously.

Sometimes it is fun to just write stories with no preconceived plan, no outlines, no character histories or anything like that. I plan on writing as many short stories as I can over the next few weeks so that when I switch back to the non-fiction project, all those short stories can sit in the "compost pile". Then, a few weeks or months later I'll dig them up and begin to work with them. At this point, some amazing things can happen. Story lines that seemed incomplete suddenly get filled in. Plots that seemed aimless suddenly have life. Characters that lacked depth come alive. And on and on.

Like the compost pile in the garden, though, it just takes time. And patience. And a whole lot of ideas.

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