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Journaling - Story Ideas Incubator

Updated on October 3, 2016

Story Ideas - Journaling Through the Seasons

Your personal reflections on the weather, the seasons, your reactions to them, the holidays and events connected with particular times of the year, family traditions and unusual occurrences all can make their way into your idea journal. Never be without a story idea again.

The Seasons - Metaphor for the Human Condition

The ebb and flow of the seasons is often used as a metaphor for the human condition. May-December marriages refer to a couple, one partner of whom is much younger than the other. When we suffer from a bleak period in our lives, it's called "the dark winter of the soul."

Whether your favorite season is just past or you are eagerly anticipating its arrival, the fact is that seasons, like aromas, stir up emotional recollections. Think of holiday cookies baking in the oven, or fresh garlic and herbs sautéing on the stove to be added to stuffing.

I encourage you to begin a seasonal journal where you can record reflections on weather and events, bringing clarity and insight into this cyclical journey we make annually. Journaling can be a great revealer of truth, but don't analyze as you write. Simply set down your reactions, feelings, observations and facts. Record temperatures, forecasts, activities, the impact weather has on your psyche, plans, family and friends. Feel. Observe. Record.

Making Sense of Your Journal Entries

Making sense of what you write uses a different part of your brain and best occurs after several months (a year is better). Then is the time to analyze. You will be alternately embarrassed by some things you've written and startled by the occasional profound insight.

During a particularly difficult time in my life, a wise friend had this to say:

While you are in the throes of a tough situation or a crisis in your life is not the time to try to make sense of it. Why, you may ask? Because trying to figure everything out during this period will yield only speculation. It is only with the perspective of time, and long after we are on the other side of the crisis, that we can BEGIN to come to terms with what happened and seek the answers to why? and why me? and why now?

The same holds true for journaling. Insight comes with perspective. And perspective comes with distance. Think of an artist sketching in a scene. First comes the outline of the "big picture." Then come the broad strokes of laying in color. Once those are done, only then is it time to start working on the details.

When we're in the midst of "something," we're surrounded by, absorbed in, and otherwise unable to see anything else but all the details of that "something."

Your journal will record all the details as they happen, and your reactions to them. After some time, you can begin to see patterns, note where things are linked, start to recognize some nuggets of truth. But only when you see the big picture is this possible.


Summer represents playtime, endless days of swimming or golf, travel and relaxation or unforgettable adventures. The "dog days" of summer, that sultry, fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk, a seemingly endless season with no hint of breezes--these are indeed "dog days." As temperatures soar, frequent power brown-outs and water rationing add to our discomfort. Thunderstorms and tornadoes increase the drama. A fortunate few retreat to cooler climes.

Take away:

Brainstorm an ideal summer, then a series of disasters, possibly humorous, to upset your plans. What is the lesson learned or unexpected byproduct?


Like spring and summer, fall has two aspects. There is a briskness to the air, a particular shade of blue to the sky, and autumn leaves add their splendor.

Ah, but these give way to cold raininess, sodden leaves underfoot and barren trees. Air that was cool can quickly turn cold as the wind bites, and most people head indoors.

Take away:

Get wild and crazy with this one. Brainstorm sci fi or fantasy scenarios. Write about aliens unprepared for a change of season or animals (think "Redwall" saga or "Watership Down") preparing for winter, to comment on the human condition.


Winter never really begins until the first snowfall or heavy frost, depending on what part of the planet you live in. Long johns, parkas, scarves and gloves are standard attire for the most part in the Western Hemisphere. Folks stock up on sidewalk salt and seriously consider getting a snowblower, based on the number of woolly worms. Skiers and lodge owners pray for cold temperatures.

Snowbirds head south -- all this before the first snowflake falls. And then once the snow starts, it may not let up for two months. Mountains of dirty snow in parking lots, axle-breaking potholes on highways, sub-zero temperatures, counteract the picture-postcard views of snow-covered landscapes. Cabin fever abounds. And then just when it seems winter will never end…the cycle begins again.

Take away:

Create a fairytale, or invent a legend or myth within another story, that uses winter as a metaphor.


When my family lived in Germany, I had difficulty getting through the frigid winters that didn't even offer snow where we were, only sleet and icy roads. But, oh, when Spring rolled around, it was like another world entirely. Everything bloomed. Literally every plant that could bloom DID bloom. It was a glorious riot of color, a picture postcard scene around every corner of the countryside.

So even though the winters were difficult for me (I suffer from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder because of the reduced daylight hours), after that first spring, I had something wonderful to hold onto, a profusion of blooms that immediately lightened my heart. And the longer daylight hours also made a positive difference.

C.S. Lewis wrote about an endless winter caused by the Evil White Witch. And then the spring came. Such dramatic climatic occurrences are the stuff of great stories. Add the human element, and then write like the wind.

The Essence of a Season

The essence of a season evokes emotional reactions. From the sharp tang of freshly-cut grass in spring to the mouth-watering scent of a backyard barbecue in summer, to the smell of burning leaves in fall, to the aroma of mulled cider simmering on the winter hearth, the seasons exert their power over us, oppressing, distressing, enriching or inspiring.

There we can find story ideas if we listen, observe and live. Our observations, the truths we discover, the experiences we learn from, not only define us, but help make sense of our world. Start that journal today, no matter what the season. There's always next year to fill in what you've missed.


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