Forest Bathing and A Really Good Idea

Wednesday, September 04, 2019
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.

For me, forest bathing is more like unplugging somewhere in a natural setting and usually, having a walkabout. It may be hiking somewhere green and lush with lots of wooded trails. But when I’m spending time at the beach, my forest bathing involves traipsing around the island. And one of my favorite spots is the dirt and shell-strewn road that runs in front of my house.

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.

I’ve never seen Aquaman. I have seen the trailer, the same trailer that was apparently lurking in my mind, biding its time to influence my creative thought process through my daily forest bathing on a road along a tidal creek leading to the Atlantic Ocean.

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


Renee Roberson said...

I love the term "forest bathing." I do this every single morning now, too, since I live in a neighborhood that has a connecting greenway. That's where I listen to the majority of my podcasts but I do tend to get some great ideas while I'm out there! You sound like you have a beautiful space to walk and ruminate. I thought you were developing a picture book idea while describing all the things you and Libs come across. That is hilarious that you came up with Aquaman on your daily jaunts. Glad to know I'm not the only one this has happened to--Google and Amazon are our friends for checking ourselves!

Cathy C. Hall said...

That would have been a great picture book, Renee, but I guess I was a wee bit fixated on that whole Aquaman hero-but-bad-boy thing stuck in my head. :-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Forest bathing. Great term. I love unplugging when we are at the lake although I think my editors wonder how I have found an area with almost no cell service.

For me, the stories flow when I get back vs when I walk. But walking in nature definitely works wonders!

KAlan said...

Of course, Aquaman as a concept has been around since the forties, and many times treated with much more respect than this latest film travesty... and herein lies the dilemma. When is it time to recombine ideas into something new? How many decades do we have to wait before undersea dwellers or psychic powers or (God forbid) vampires are fair game again? Even when Aquaman was conceived, the creators didn't own Atlantis, but now it seems like anything set underwater is considered to be derivative.

My YA novel is currently under representation, but it isn't looking good. The feedback to my agent from publishers is always the same: "Too much like Rick Riordan." OK, it has teenagers and Greek gods in it, but Riordan didn't invent either of those, and that's pretty much where the similarities end. Can't those tropes be used to tell a new story?

I don't know the plot the forest bathed into you, but I'm willing to bet that you are underselling its originality to yourself. I'm willing to bet that your idea was better than that Aquaman movie. It probably relied on something other than pecs to keep it afloat (pun intended).

Cathy C. Hall said...

It's so hard to really unplug, Sue, I have to give you kudos for finding a place where you can really get away. :-)

Though now that I think about it, Youngest Junior Hall ALWAYS claimed no reception when he was living in the mountains of NC. Hmmmm.

And KAlan, you made me laugh out loud with that no pun intended line!But you're so right--everything seems to be off limits with editors crying "too derivative"...until the next best-seller comes along and it's...wait for it. Yeah, totally derivative of the last best seller. You just have to keep on keeping on.

And P.S. I'm a big Rick Riordan fan but I'll give you your same advice back. You wouldn't have an agent if you didn't have something sell-able so hang in there!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I've been going to this area of Southern Missouri since I was a toddler. Can't claim to have found it but I do love the lack of cell service. The Smoky Mountains are another good area for that. Good. Bad. It all depends on your outlook. An editor did ask me if I ever go to a city.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Who doesn't love Aquaman? :) It is frustrating to have an idea and be unable to use it. Don't know if you recall, but a number of years ago I spent a huge amount of time writing a horror short which I sent out, full of anticipation, only to be accused of plagiarism because the hook was too close to an old tale told by some big name horror writer I'd never even heard of (because although I love writing horror stories, I don't love reading them . . . they scare me.) Anyway, I was horrified (ha) to be so accused. I hunted down the story online---no easy task---and read it for the first time ever. Sure enough, it was similar to what I'd written. Not only did I have to dump the story I'd worked so hard on, but I also had to get over the internal misery of being accused of plagiarizing, something I would never intentionally do. Don't know if research would've spared me, but it sure made a case for reading widely in genres we wish to explore as writers.

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