I’m never sure where a plot point or a character or a line of dialogue will spring from. Like every other person on the planet, I’m bombarded with stimuli ever moment of every day. I overhear conversations (sometimes purely by accident). I meet “peculiar” characters on the street (and, yes, other people can see them, too). I watch a person think through an interesting choice or take a curious action (at least, I find it interesting and curious).
There is a LOT going on. It can be a real challenge to take it all in. But if I don’t pay attention, I won’t have the raw material to create characters and plots and dialogue.
Now that I’ve paid attention, I have to bank the goods. I have to record the remarkable person I’ve seen or the noteworthy incident I’ve observed. I can either write things down or commit them to memory. My memory is somewhat less trustworthy than it once was. A written record usually serves me best.
I’ve paid attention. I’ve recorded my observations. Now I have decisions to make to help me use the goods I’ve banked. I don’t try to preserve everything I witness, but I do save an awful lot.
I have to sort and parse. I need to discard the dross and keep only what is worthwhile. It’s hard to know how to go about doing that and how to make wise choices.
I have my written record - the resource that I draw upon when I write. It’s the seed bank in my own little plot of soil. But it’s a seed bank that offers up as much rubbish as it does treasure.
Horticulturists, crop scientists, and plain old gardeners reckon with seed banks when they work to coax plants from the earth. The soil those growers contend with is lousy with so much that they simply do not want, things like weeds, invasives, and toxic plants. All of those plants have to be rooted out in order to create the garden envisioned or the crop desired.
A first go-around is never enough. The gardener attacks with trowel, hoe, and garden knife. The writer attacks with red ink and the delete key. Eventually the plot looks clean and perfect. That lasts a moment. The weeds are still in the bank. The seeds will germinate. Weeds soon poke from the soil, mocking efforts to bring order and to make the plot tidy. The gardener and the writer attack again, and again, and again. And will attack until the end of time. There will always be more of what is not desirable and what is not wanted.
When I write, it’s reassuring to have so much to ponder and appraise. In theory, I can profit from having paid attention and banked the goods. But, more often than not, what at first pokes up in the plot is not of lasting value. I have to cast a cold eye on what I see germinating. I may say an immediate “yes,” to a few things. I will say an instant “no,” to many more. And a fair amount I will leave be for now in order to study and to calculate potential.
Most of what I see and store I will eventually root out. More will go by the wayside than will ever be used. It’s a luxury, though, to have so many options safely tucked away in that seed bank.