What Writers Can Learn from a Cornfield

I’ve decided to stop fighting the cornfield. I stare at it every day from the front porch and watch it evolve with the season. And for some reason, that cornfield irks me. Why? I’m not sure. It’s obviously not rational. Maybe it has something to do with Stephen King. Maybe not. But for whatever reason, I have to deal with it and writing is good therapy, so here we go: the top five things writers can learn from a cornfield.

1. Commonplace sights might trigger a muse. How many cornfields did Stephen King see before hatching the idea for his short horror story Children of the Corn? “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner is another good example: “If you build it, they will come.” Think about the things you see every day – day in, day out. Try looking at them a little differently next time, and see what happens.

2. Before writing, you must prepare the field. Early last spring a giant piece of farm equipment descended on the dead field and plowed it mercilessly into tiny clods of soil. Then a week later, another piece of equipment (I will probably never know the names of these things) sprayed the field with some type of chemical that sent our allergies into overdrive. Now I don’t recommend using pesticides on your computer, but before embarking on a giant project you will need to do some prep work. If you can’t muster up the energy for a full outline, at least write out a few goals for that project. Maybe one sentence that captures what you want to accomplish.

3. Plant the idea with diligence. Farmers are hard workers. I mean, I’m talking about a GIANT field here. One day there were multiple pieces of farm equipment (again, I’m not sure of the names but I think one is called a tiller) across the road, tilling the dirt clods into rows, in which they planted thousands (perhaps millions) of corn seeds. Then another vehicle went over the field spraying water. They put in some serious work at planting time. Writers, we must do the work to get it right. Don’t settle for the word that’s close enough. Find the right word, the most provocative concept, the most dynamic characters. Till, and plant, and water. Row after row, line after line, page after page. At the very least, we owe it to the story we’re telling.

4. Be prepared for drought. Two words: writer’s block. It’ll happen, so you might as well get a game plan ready. When words won’t come, I usually go back and edit. At least I’m doing something, right? Crying helps too.

8106554-standard5. Harvest (the words) in due season. At some point, the book (or article, or whatever) WANTS to be written. It won’t let go until you finish that last paragraph. Seize the moment and write those words down! Don’t stop until you get every last ear of corn.

When all else fails, pretend your dog got lost and run across the street to steal some fresh corn for dinner. Oh wait, did I actually write that out loud? Never mind, don’t do that.  Just write about it.

10 thoughts on “What Writers Can Learn from a Cornfield

      1. I generally read mysteries – Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, etc. – for writing and because I like them. But just recently, I read “In the Presence of My Enemies” by Gracie Burnham. It was a freebie on Kindle and was surprisingly good. It told the story of two missionaries in the Philippines who were kidnapped and held for ransom for one year by Muslim Jihaddists. The frustrations they felt with God and the hopelessness of day after day trying to survive with little food and few necessities. It’s an honest book and well written. It really made me wonder how I would handle such a situation, especially at age 66 years.


        1. I might have to check that one out… I just recently got a Kindle and I’m loving it. I just read the first book of The Hunger Games, Stephen King’s book about JFK / time travel, and John Eldredge’s “Walking with God.” I like to keep an eclectic mix going 🙂


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