As writers, we are always looking for ideas to write about. We look to our experiences and we ask other writers where they find ideas for their stories or anecdotes to support an article. It’s so much easier when a story comes to you. No, I don’t mean when a story idea comes to mind, I mean when a story actually comes to you.
A few years ago I had a story come to me out of left field. I’m serious. That’s not a cliché. The story literally came out of left field. More accurately, left corn field. I was in Dyersville, Iowa on vacation. My brother and I and our wives were visiting the farm where the movie, Field of Dreams was filmed. As we approached left field, a woman walked out from among the corn stalks just like in the movie. She held a sheet of paper in her hand. She approached us and asked if we would take a picture of her family by the entrance to the corn field. She had a certain peace about her; a quiet contentment that somehow spoke to my heart. I was happy to oblige.
“My teenage son loved this movie and has always wanted to come here,” she said with a smile.
Her husband chimed in from behind me. “We promised him we would come here as a family someday. He was quite a baseball player, a pitcher.”
“Where is he?” I replied, as I glanced over my shoulder to see if he was by the farm house that was prominently featured in the film.
“He’s right here,” the woman replied. She turned over the paper in her hand. It revealed a close-up photo of her son in his baseball uniform. “He passed away last year.” Her voice was steady. “Brain tumor.”
“He was a good boy. He loved the game,” her husband added. “We finally made it here. He was too sick to travel. This is the best we could do.”
“I’m so sorry.” It was all I could muster. I raised their camera to take their picture. They held his photo close to their hearts and stood as if their son was between them.
“On three,” I said, as my throat tightened.
When I lowered the camera they freely shared with us some precious moments of their son’s life. I asked about a red Lance Armstrong-type wristband they both wore.
“After he died we sold these as a fundraiser to help buy uniforms for his baseball team,” his father explained. “The wristband features our son’s name, jersey number and his favorite saying when he battled the tumor.”
I glanced at the band. It was a simple message that expressed the wisdom of a teenager beyond his years: “Every day is a bonus.”
We asked if we could buy a handful of wristbands and share them with our friends in his memory. We bought the wristbands, thanked them and offered a warm word of encouragement before parting.
How will I use this anecdote beyond this blog? Honestly, I’m not sure. Perhaps I will use it as a short story, for an article, an illustration in a speech, or maybe as inspiration for a character sketch.
Life doesn’t always happen this way. Story ideas don’t always find us, we have to hunt for them. But when a story finds you, write it down, let it incubate and then retrieve it someday to enrich your writing or tell someone’s story in a way that honors them.
Keep your eyes and ears open for those rich story ideas that come out of nowhere and speak to your heart.
You never know when a story will come to you—out of left field.
The Writer’s Refuge blog is a place for writers, like you, to break away from your daily routine and for just a few minutes find insight, inspiration or simply a word of encouragement.
Blog entries are posted on Thursday.
You may contact Jim Magruder at: email@example.com.