I just got back from a two-week-long family vacation that hit 15 states and covered 5,800 miles. It was wearying, but I saw a lot of things that I will always remember. I’ve written in the past about how going on vacation helps recharge my creativity. That remains true.
During our long driving stretches through stretches of Kansas, South Dakota, Colorado, and other places where there was little to see, I had two different writing projects I worked on. One was a novel and the other a novella. Both were historical fiction. I didn’t complete as much as I would have thought for being on the road at least 100 hours. I did move both projects forward, though.
My surprise, though, was that I came up with an idea for a children’s book. It was a total surprise since I’ve never written a children’s book.
We were driving though Yellowstone National Park when we got tied up in traffic because of road work in the park. I saw a slope that led to the road that was covered with lots of flat, loose rocks. I also noticed that the edge of the slope was barely taller than a dump truck stopped on the road.
Now, we had also been watching for bears in the park. For one thing, the park has signs posted all over the place about leaving the wildlife alone. However, we had also been looking for animals. We had already seen bison and elk. My wife said she wanted to see a bear and mountain lion, so I was searching the woods as we drove along looking for bears.
When I saw the rock slope, an image flashed in my mind of a bear cub at the top of the slope losing its footing on the loose rock and tumbling down the hill into the dump truck just as the truck drove off. That became the nugget for my story.
Once I realized that was what it was, I had a few stray ideas about possible scenes in the story, but it wasn’t until we reached the New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia, nearly a week later and halfway across the country that the story gelled for me.
My wife and I were getting ready to climb a steep, rocky trail to an overlook when the story suddenly came to me. I whipped out my smartphone and turned on the recording app. I dictated the outline for the story as we began the climb.
I tell you this story just to show you that you never know what is going to inspire you to write a story. Look around you. There are stories everywhere.
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