Summer holiday season is winding down, school will be back in session for many students next week, and the stores are already stocking up on Halloween candy. Where does the time go? We’ll be back to our self-publishing series next week, once I finish easing my way back into post-vacation real-life, but today we’re going to talk about refilling the creative well.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, the Girls in the Basement went on strike while I was off on vacation. Instead of coming home with thousands of lovely new story words, I had a notebook full of blank pages. Had I known that was going to happen, I’d have left the writing paraphernalia at home and packed an extra pair of shoes and the other camera lens. Lesson learned.
Fortunately, even though I wasn’t writing, I still had plenty of opportunity for creative thinking just by looking at what was around me. One example was the visit Eight Lady Jilly and I took to the Highgate Cemetery in London one Sunday. There is nothing like Victorian Gothic atmosphere to get the ideas flying. There were monuments overgrown with roots and foliage and graves that looked like the perfect resting place for a vampire or two. While I don’t write stories set in the Victorian period (yet), if I ever do, it may be to tell the tale of the poor woman’s body that was left in the temporary catacomb vaults and never reclaimed by her family for proper burial. I can’t help wondering why they never came back. Did they die in a cholera epidemic or run out of money or did they just not care? There’s a story in there, I’m sure.
A visit to Bowood House in Derry Hill the next Sunday gave me a first-hand feel for how some of the characters in my Regency story might have lived. The grand Robert Adam designed rooms with their ornate details and walls full of paintings and statuary were a sight to see (sadly, no indoor photography allowed). It was nice to be able to walk through the rooms, as my characters might have, and to imagine what kind of staff (and how much money) it would take to keep a place like that going. My favourite part of the estate was the Capability Brown designed landscape. Vast sweeping vistas, a sinuous lake, a hidden waterfall, and even a Greek temple off in the distance (you can see it peeking out of the left-hand side of the photo above) – it was a little hard to comprehend that the landscape was all man-made and that at one time it all belonged to a single family. I could just imagine a Regency house party there, and had lots of ideas about the mischief that could occur near the hidden waterfall and Greek temple in the twilight.
There were many other little moments here and there during my trip that triggered thoughts that went into the little notebook I always carry in my purse. Most of them are not likely to turn into anything, but a few may find their way into a story or may trigger other new thoughts the next time I look at them. To give my creativity a little extra charge, I made sure to leave an offering on the “good-luck griffin” at the college where I was staying. It may just be a coincidence, but last night when I was thinking about my contemporary story before falling asleep I had two fresh ideas, including a new character to up the conflict between my hero and heroine. I’m going to give the good-luck griffin credit for at least one of the ideas. Seems only fair.
So, it’s never too soon to start planning my next vacation. If you’ve got any suggestions for places to go or things to do that offer scope for creative thinking, I’m all ears.