Thursday, April 13, 2017

On Potato Eyes and Story Ideas

Do you know how to grow potatoes? Maybe you watched Matt Damon do it in The Martian. Actually, it’s not rocket science. A potato will start to grow on its own if you leave it in the cupboard too long. To grow new potatoes, you just cut an existing potato into sections, making sure each section has at least one “eye,” which is the little, sprouting nub, then you stick the sections into the ground.
I thought about this yesterday when I went out to bring the trash cans in. I’d been thinking about two stories recently finished. Well, finished for now. I was thinking about how I’m getting dangerously close to having enough stories for a collection, and how I should stick with this cycle (which seems to be about loss, and perception, and maybe even, colors), for at least a couple more. But I’ve never been one for brainstorming story ideas; I mostly wait until they announce themselves.
So I was thinking about those two stories and what I might possibly work on while I’m trying not to work on them, and I looked up to see a piece of paper stuck in a nearby bush. Also, a chips wrapper. Both were escapees from the now-mostly-empty trash cans. Immediately, I knew it was a scrap from a story draft, which I had marked up to the point of needing to print a new copy. In dramatic fashion, I thought: I’ll write a story about whatever it says.
And this is what was on that scrap of paper, that potato eye:
"She's never done anything for herself."
I knew immediately where these words came from: which story, about which character. It was quite a good scrap, I thought. First, I started thinking about potatoes and did that for a while. But then I refocused on the found fragment, which started to grow in some possible directions and suggest possible rooms, and people, and problems. And I thought that maybe it’s not such a bad approach, growing something from a piece of something else. Sometimes the universe gives you signs and they're hard to recognize and interpret. Sometimes, they’re pretty direct.

1 comment:

  1. :) Now I wonder what will happen when she finally does something for herself. I have my guesses.


"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka