Never Turn Off the Writer's Head - Writer's Digest

Never Turn Off the Writer's Head

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Take Joy by Jane Yolen

I never turn off my writer's head.

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Conversations are stuffed in there, the chalky sweet smell of paper-white roses, the sharp fishiness of herring fillets, the rough crumble of unharled stone, the way a pea plant points its wayward fingers upward in its search for some new purchase, how the ruined towers of a castle take on extra life against a gray sy, the feel of my granddaughter's small wriggly hand in mine. All this and more will be returned to me when I need it in a scene of a poem or as a central metaphor for a story.

I didn't know all that when I first began to write. I thought any time away from the typewriter was wasted time. I didn't understand the need to collect, to gather, to paste into the memory a variety of experiences.

Then my husband and I spent nine months camping in Europe and the Middle East, and this long years before computers. When we came back to the States, I found myself using images of what I had seen, tasted, touched, smelled, heard.

And my stories grew richer accordingly.

That's when when I understood how important "gathering days" are for writers.