For Love of a Tractor: Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Ways (Post by Anna)
If you glance at the title of this post and then at the name and tagline of this blog, you might ask the question, “What does a tractor have to do with romance fiction?” I’m about to explain, so come along with me for the ride — in the driver’s seat of a Ford 1920 tractor.
First, for those of you who don’t know, 1920 is the model, not the year it was made. This particular tractor is nicknamed Big Blue and it belongs to my dad. A couple weeks ago, he offered to teach me how to drive the tractor. Now, I’ve lived in the country for most of my life, in various places around the U.S. of A, but I’d never thought of learning to drive a tractor. When my dad offered, my first thought was sure, why not, might be kind of fun. I figured I’d try it once and that’d be it.
So one afternoon, I climbed aboard Big Blue for a lesson in tractoring. I put it in gear, eased my foot off the clutch, and chugged in circles in the turnaround in front of the pole barn. I couldn’t stop laughing, exhilarated by the fun of mastering a big hunk of machinery. I’ve been hooked on tractoring ever since. Big Blue has a front-end loader, and I can now pick stuff up and dump the bucket. Yesterday, I even knocked down a small tree.
What’s this got to do with romance writing? We writers often talk about inspiration, but in reality inspiration is not a magical finger that touches your mind, imbuing you with amazing ideas. Inspiration comes from the aggregation of life experiences and writing skill. The more practiced a writer becomes, the easier ideas flow. Life experiences enrich and enliven those ideas. My books aren’t autobiographical, yet everything I do and see and read impacts my stories. It’s no coincidence that I suffer from migraines, just like the Grace, the heroine from my books Willpower and Intuition. The cause of her migraines is very different from mine (and much stranger). Still, my firsthand knowledge gave me an idea that enhanced those books.
I haven’t yet written a book about a tractor-driving heroine, but I might one day. Even if I don’t, the experience of learning a new skill will inform my writing. Sitting astride that tractor, mowing down a tree with the engine growling at 1300 rpm, I discovered a new kind of independence — the freedom to control a big machine with precision. My fictional heroines have spunk. Driving Big Blue reminded me I’ve got my own spunk too. My heroines reflect me in this respect, and I like that. A writer should plant a seed of herself into her characters.
That’s why writers often say “write what you know.” Not because we have to write only what we’ve experienced in real life, but because our life experiences ought to shape our stories in subtle ways. The unexpected thrill of tractoring will, no doubt, seep out of my subconscious and into the stories I craft.
Dying to see me and Big Blue in action? I know you are, so don’t lie! 🙂 Check out my “Tractor Therapy” video to see me and my new love interest at work.