As writers, we know ideas continue to enter our creative corridor even though we may be in the middle of another project demanding our full attention. At least that’s what we hope. I have a mental list of several story ideas, so my well is far from drying up. I can’t imagine, and I hope I never experience, a time where I’m not plotting through a story concept.
Ideas may seem to come out of nowhere, but our surroundings often inspire us, whether a show/movie, a headline, or a writing prompt. Some, however, do come out of nowhere. Either way, it’s exciting to pin down another idea for another day. Yesterday, however, my latest pin had me curious. Attempting to discipline myself and break old habits, I did what I rarely do. I typed out the idea to see if I could convey my thoughts on paper – something I find most challenging as a writer.
Even though it’s a rough draft – not even rough, more like an expounded sticky note – my goal was to make a significant revelation forcing an ohhh from the reader. I gave subtle hints that you’d catch the second time – if I were so lucky to write something worth multiple viewings.
By posting this “sticky note” of an idea, I am breaking a rule writers shouldn’t break, or at least break with absolute caution. The public shouldn’t see rough drafts, so to speak. If the person reading your initial draft isn’t a writer, they won’t understand. Their mentality is: Oh, you’re a writer! Then what I’m about to read should put me at the edge of my seat and blow me away all at the same time. They, or rather you, are setting them up for utter disappointment with a lackluster plot, flat characters and a setting as boring as a cactus centerpiece.
I used to enjoy watching Bob Ross paint. It was amazing watching the blank canvas transform into a beautiful depiction of nature. But every time I watched, I’d see Bob do something, and I couldn’t help to think, Dude, you just messed up your painting. I wasn’t seeing the big picture. I didn’t see what he saw, the smudge becoming a bridge or a tree line.
Rough drafts are no different. Their purpose isn’t to have the bridge or tree line but rather to begin putting paint on the canvas. Writers see the big picture. We know, sometimes, where we want to go. Other times, we dab our brush into different colors as if scraping the white off the canvas in hopes of uncovering an idea.
With all that said, here is my smudge:
The bench, damp from the mid-morning rain, wobbled when I sat down. I stood and walked over to the walking path and found a thick, flat piece of limestone. After a bit of digging, dirt wedging under my nails, I pulled it from the clutches of soil, leaving a tripping hazard for visitors. I carried it with both hands, the moist soil making the lines on my palms muddy riverbanks and placed it under the leg of the bench correcting its balance.
And then I waited.
I didn’t know who would show, but someone always did, putting a nice, if not reflective, end to another, otherwise, meaningless day. People from town were habitual, always coming to visit loved ones on their way home. Some talked. Some stood still. Some knelt. But those weren’t the ones that shared my bench.
The clouds swept by with the late fall breeze at their backs, pushing my thoughts along the majestic sky. Lost in a memory or two, I was startled by her presence as if appearing out of nowhere. She sat upright like a fence post, hands folded and nestled in her lap. She didn’t seem to mind the wetness.
“Were you waiting long?” I asked, looking at a strand of hair touching her shoulder as it caught the sun’s finale.
“No,” she answered in a whisper. “Time is irrelevant. There’s just waiting. But many are.”
“Oh, I don’t know how it all works,” I said.
“For better for worse, I suppose.”
“Yes, I suppose.” I looked out across the cemetery. More wilted flowers than fresh ones. “Where did you come from?”
“Up there,” she pointed, her voice forlorn. “A few graves away from the big oak tree. Next to my husband.”