So its that time of year again. Graduations. School ending. Days getting longer. After living 36 years in New York, the heat is definitely on in Virginia. This week has lots of days in the 90s and high humidity, too.
Its easy for writing time to go by the wayside. Vacations. Summer sports. Kids around more often. Higher noise levels. House visitors. Holidays. Lots of good things that can become distractions.
However, with all this great weather are also great opportunities to increase your creativity. Here's my favorite place to do so, you might think I'm strange and I don't even write suspense!
Here are some things I like to do in cemeteries that help my creativity.
-Bring a notebook and camera.
-Sit on peaceful benches and write. What a great quiet spot with lots of beautiful nature around you to inspire.
-Write down names that intrigue me. Many times I have found a great name for a character from looking at tombstones. Also you can get a good feel for what names were popular in particular eras and in your area of the country.
-Look for the big names. Write them down and when you get home do some web searching. You can find out some interesting stories from local "heroes."
-Take a guided tour. We have done several guided tours. You can learn about famous individuals, interesting stories, and strange facts.
-Head into the main building. Here you'll have access to interesting records and those who work in the cemeteries are often very willing to help you find a specific individual. They may have other information about the origins of your town which may help you with setting.
-Take pictures of stones and landscape features. You can certainly tell about the architecture of the time and the economic status of the individuals in a cemetery. What kind of stone is used? Or none at all and a simple marker?
Imagine what might a child with a troubled relationship leave at their father's gravestone? What about the mother who has lost a child to a car accident? How about a child who has never met their biological parents? How about a spouse about to remarry? What might they leave and what does that show about their emotions.
-Observe groups of tombstones. Look at death dates, birth dates. What was the family size? Is there a remarriage after a death? Oftentimes a husband or wife dies within a short span of the other? What can you tell about the cause of death? The family health history?
-Read what is written on the stones. I love reading the poetry and imagining the relationship between a husband and wife or reading what a parent has written about a beloved child who died young. Sometimes these bring me to tears I'll admit but they are great fodder for writing.
-Watch groups of people. This may be creepy that I do this, but observing a service from a respectful distance (don't stay too long) can be a valuable writer exercise. You can understand different responses to grieving. Some are noticeable weepers, others wear shades to hide their grief, still others may look unaffected. We all deal with grief in different ways. Picture what the relationship of some of the different individuals with the person who died might be.
-Come home and spend some time observing your notes and photos. Check the internet for more information.
Cemetery watching may seem a bit odd, but its been a spark to my own creativity for years. Maybe you'll find a tidbit that helps you discover more about your character and their emotional journey.
Do you cemetery watch? Do you have another outdoor place you like to go for building your creativity?
Julia lives in Richmond, Virginia area with her husband, two elementary aged children, and three adorable ragdolls. She writes and reviews for Library Journal and is a regular contributor to the site Wonderfully Woven (http://www.wonderfullywoven.com).