Inland fishermen who need fish for survival and for protein in their diet know that if they stock their pond with tiny young fish they will, later, have a good supply of larger fish for food.

This approach works for writers too. You have to stock the pond. You stock it with ideas, characters, plots, setting. You collect these while they are small and unrelated – they’re just the baby fish, they’re not mature and solid  yet.

They might not seem  like much and you are a busy person. Like me, you may feel that you don’t have time to be noting every little thing down. So those little fish get away and are forgotten. That’s too bad because they could have added richness to some later story.

Let’s say your teenager slams the door as he leaves the house angry.  How would you describe the sound of the slam? Did you feel the house shake? What were your feelings? Did the dog run and hide? How did the teen look – were his shoulders stiff, fists clenched? How did he feel?

Maybe there is a detail you could easily forget – perhaps he doesn’t put his jacket on , even though it is cold outside, maybe he kicks the garden rake on the way past and it falls down.

Part of the usefulness of this is training your observation, making a habit of stocking your pond. It’s part of the process of being a writer that you are astute enough to notice and internalize people’s actions and reactions.

It’s part of stocking the pond that you “What if” it a few times. What if he angrily takes your car and drives too fast and slams into a bus, or hits a pedestrian? What if he meets the neighborhood drug connection and is offered a free sample, just to calm his nerves?

It’s part of stocking the pond that you take a long hard look at your own reactions and feelings and that you observe the different ways other members of the household react.

Being a writer doesn’t just mean firing up your word processor or sitting down, pen in hand at the kitchen table. It means having a fully stocked pond imagination.