I am a big believer in forest bathing, or what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku, which means “taking in the forest.”
I should explain that it doesn’t mean I’m lathering up amongst the trees. It also doesn’t mean that I’m using a guide to help me navigate through this form of nature therapy as the Japanese are wont to do.
The road borders a tidal creek and leads to a bridge where the gate prevents trespassers but where you can see the creek widen, eventually feeding into the Atlantic Ocean. I take Libs for her daily constitutional down this road and as it dead ends into the gate, we don’t see a lot of people. We see a lot of tiny fiddler crabs or herons in the scraggly trees, but it’s a pretty quiet and peaceful walk. And what at home takes about five minutes, here on this road with what I assume are tons of delightful smells, a half hour is a pretty typical jaunt for us. So I have this daily meandering time, and my mind is meandering, too, and as the days passed, I started to have this idea.
It was just a small idea at first but then it grew. Every day, something new cropped up, adding to this story that was growing in my head. But here’s the thing: I didn’t want an idea growing in my head. I had made up my mind that I was not writing another thing until I had sent out my last manuscript and really worked at it. Or at least sent it to four or five publishers.
But you can’t stop the creative mind from what it wants and apparently my mind wanted to get started on this new story because every day on my walk, there it was again. The last manuscript be damned, I had an almost completely plotted out new manuscript in my head. Time to start writing!
And yet, something did stop me, something about my story that seemed…well, it seemed such a good idea that I wondered how someone else hadn’t come up with it already. I mean, I’m a little paranoid now about writing something that’s already out there as you might recall from this post, so I hit the pause button.
That afternoon after my walk, I pulled out my phone and Googled good stories that might already be out there that were similar to the such-a-good-idea in my head.
And there it was. Not exactly, but close enough: the same conflict, the high concept, the drama and pathos and humor. My brain had more or less written a blockbuster!
Aquaman. I’d come up with Aquaman.
Anyway, I’m still a big fan of forest bathing for finding great ideas. I still believe in the creative and healing power of unplugging from our digital world and letting our natural world fill our senses. But I do recommend a little research before you start writing. Especially if you have a really good idea. And yeah, I know. I should start sending out that old manuscript. But it’s not nearly as good as Aquaman.
~Cathy C. Hall