When our theme for August, collecting, was announced I immediately thought, “I don’t collect anything; what am I going to write about?” But that initial moment of panic was completely unfounded.
Now, I used to collect stuffed bears – until my husband put the kibosh on that. “You’re too old for stuffed animals” (not really a legit reason, in my mind) and “We’re running out of space” (okay, legit reason). Since then, I really haven’t collected anything.
Or so I thought.
Turns out my collections these days are just much more ephemeral, less likely to be stored on a shelf. See, I collect words.
I’m sure this happens to every writer. You’re walking down the street. You see something (like an old guy in a top hat, crazy glasses and a kilt, carrying a walking stick – no, I kid you not). You start to think, “What’s that about?” Before you know it, you’ve got a story idea. Maybe it’s something you can write immediately, maybe it’s not. But you’ve collected an idea.
Or you are standing in line at Starbucks. The gentleman ahead of you is on his phone and you hear a snippet of conversation. “You’d better fix this, you hear me?”
You’ve collected an idea.
Where do you store your collections? Well, some people stick them in a notebook. Some write notes on a smart-phone app. Me, I use Evernote – a handy online notebook that synchs from the web to my phone to my laptop. So that snippet of conversation can’t get lost and I have access to it anywhere (side note: that snippet of conversation above? I carried it around for six months until it showed up in Every Other Monday is Murder, the first Laurel Highlands novel, which I’m in the end stages of right now.)
Walking to work one morning, dodging mounds of dirty snow, I was hit with a what if. What if Jim Duncan showed up at the scene of a fire at a fledgling resort, and there was a dead body there? What if the dead guy wasn’t the guy who rented the room?
I’d collected an idea (that one is still sitting in Evernote, waiting to be written).
I’ve collected another line and I can totally hear my wise-cracking deputy coroner Tom Burns saying this – I just need to find the story: “Holidays are usually a time when family members decide to ‘off’ one another.”
Lest you think I’m morbid, I collect ideas for my middle-grade series too. I have notes in Evernote for two more stories in that series. Ideas just collecting virtual dust until I find the right story and can pull them out of my collection.
So you see, I don’t have stamps, or coins, or rare books (although I never did give up all the bears). But I’ve got lots of ideas, lots of words.
And who knows? Some day those words might be more valuable than the bears.
Tell me, what’s do you collect?