Inspiration is all around us, which is especially helpful to me, as a writer and blogger. I give away free books on Books on the House, so luckily I don’t have to be creative for that; I just have to host authors who want their books in the hands of readers.
But on my other blogs, and in my writing career, I’m always looking for that creative spark. Right now, for example, I’m trying to come up with a fantastic idea for a Lola Cruz Christmas mystery for a novella. My creative well is feeling dry. The ideas aren’t flowing.
Something will come to me, I know, and I’ll write the novella (for a Christmas anthology), will finish up Bare Naked Lola, which is due in August, and will keep being receptive to the inspiration around me.
The truth is, I never know when it will strike ¦or how long after I ™ll apply that inspiration to a novel. This is true whether I ™m writing my Lola Cruz Mysteries, my new Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, or my romantic suspenses (A Deadly Curse, available now, or A Deadly Sacrifice, coming in just a few short weeks). My ideas usually stem from something I ™ve read, heard about , or have in my memory banks. From there, it develops, often requiring research to flesh it out.
This was especially true when it came to writing A Deadly Curse (on Amazon or Nook). It's based on the legend of la Llorona. My husband, Carlos, grew up hearing the tale. His parents, tias, and tios, and every other adult around, would tell the kids the story of the Crying Woman. Their purpose? To frighten them enough so they wouldn't wander off alone.
La Llorona was the Mexican boogyman. I first learned about the legend of the Crying Woman after I met Carlos (we ™ve now been married 20 years and have five children, so la Llorona has been part of my consciousness for a long time).
We ™d go camping with his brothers and sisters and their spouses, sit around the campfire, and invariably, the stories would begin.
Before long, a low, haunting sound would float through the air. La Llorona. It was as if the ghost was right there, her wails drifting up from the banks of the river through the trees, circling around us as we huddled together.
It didn't take long to figure out that it was my husband making the haunting sounds, but the legend itself was spooky and stayed with me from the first time I heard the story. A woman kills her children by drowning them in the river. After she realizes what she's done, she drowns herself. Legend has it that the woman has been haunting riverbanks ever since, looking for her children. Kids are warned to stay away from the rivers so la Llorona doesn't steal them, thinking they are hers. Creepy. Yet fascinating.
Slowly, the idea of la Llorona being the central element in a romantic suspense plot began formulating in my mind. Before too long, it took hold completely and I began plotting A Deadly Curse. But I needed to learn more about la Llorona.
Where did the legend start and why did she drown her children? These things, I figured, would inspire my plot. Little did I know that the legend of la Llorona was far more complex than I ™d ever imagined.
What I learned was that there are actually four different stories behind the legend. My husband's family knew only one of them. Everyone I ™ve talked to since then has only known one, or possibly two different versions. No one has known all four of the stories.
The woman in each story was called something different: La Ramera (the harlot), La Bruja (the witch), La Virgin (the virgin), La Sirena (the siren). Needless to say, learning about the four different stories sent my plot in a new direction. The knowledge created new opportunities and obstacles for my characters.
My research into la Llorona opened doors for me, helping me take A Deadly Curse in fascinating directions I couldn't have created if I ™d tried.
When I feel overwhelmed or lacking in creativity, I try the following:
- Do Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages (what a great process; you don’t need to be a writer to do these… they just fill you up)
- Take a walk
- Plant some flowers
- Watch a fun TV show or a comfort movie
- Cook (usually chocolate chip cookies, but sometimes Spanikopita (Greek spinach feta strudel)
- Listen to my son’s CD
- Play Tiger Woods golf on the Wii with my 14 yr old
- Go shopping
Any of these activities, and many more, help fill my creative well. How about you? I’d love other ideas, and I know you folks out there have some great ones, especially around the DFW metroplex, on how to recharge creativity.
*** Note: A Deadly Curse will be available for a few more weeks. I’m going to contract on it, and the second book, A Deadly Sacrifice, with a publisher, so I’ll be removing it for purchase at the end of June.