I have just returned from a road trip to Minnesota, a bit west of Minneapolis. It truly was the Land of Lake Wobegon, and I came back stuffed to the gills with wedding cake. We weren't even to Pine Bluffs when we noticed this car.
On closer look.... the situation became curioser and curioser.
Whoever created this wasn't afraid to make big messy art out of what they had at hand. It reminded me of the exhibits I saw when I visited the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Unlike other art museums, the AVAM made me want to make things. In exhibit after exhibit, the artists weren’t afraid to create according to their own vision from the materials they had at hand -- paper plates, bottle caps, lawn ornaments and bits of mirror.
I felt as if I could do that. Not in the sense of doing it as well, but throwing caution to the wind and making big, messy art from whatever I had. Or, more accurately, big, messy writing.
On the Minnesota trip, I collected three pages of oddball things that struck me. Among them:
- A bird struck me, literally. Dead center of the windshield at 75 MPH.
- Eating a wooze-inducing early lunch of pretzels, diet coke and a butterscotch shake purchased in the Ice Cream Capital of the World.
- Crops soggy with standing water, where last year there was drought.
- Tree leaves awash in the Minnesota River, trunks buried in water, water well outside its banks.
- Birds swarming the feeders at a rest stop.
- Bad radio music. Lots of it.
As my husband drove, I collected these just as the car artist must have collected toothpaste tubes and baby doll heads. What will I do with these? I might use one as a writing prompt. Maybe a character would develop oddball diet quirks or have a deep love of birds. I could write of a farmer at the mercy of increasingly erratic weather. Swollen rivers might make a nice place detail. Songs on the radio could help place a story in a specific time period.
As I collect parts and pieces, they work their way into stories as a collage of details that make stories more alive and real.