I’ve spent the past year or more immersed in the 1920s and vaudeville while working on a historical mystery series. Everyone seems to pick their favorite era in history and for some reason, mine has always been the Roaring Twenties with the flappers, gin joints, and gangsters. What I wouldn’t give to be a gangster’s moll for only a day! It’s fascinating that the Volstead Act, which should have slowed crime, led to an increase of organized crime, gangsters, rum running, and the birth of NASCAR.
When I think about this period in our country’s history, I feel that people were frenetic. There was a sense of party today for tomorrow may not come. The Lost Generation with their aimless abandonment of the strictures of the past generation reeled from the Great War followed on its heels with the Spanish Influenza epidemic. The naked hedonism embraced by the youth who came of age during the war is understandable. I wonder if we, too, will succumb to a sense of “being lost” once the current pandemic is over.
On October 28, 1920, the United States was preparing for a presidential election. It was also the first time women would have the opportunity to vote in an election. Thank goodness we had mansplaining even then to guide us on how to vote. The Danville Daily Messenger from central Kentucky explaining how the ballot would look since women would be unfamiliar with the ballot.
I love to craft. I crochet, spin yarn, weave, make stuff… My creations don’t always turn out, but they satisfy my need for a creative outlet I often use the repetitiveness of crochet and spinning to brainstorm ideas for my novels or my plan to take over the world.
While not everyone wants to write a novel, I do believe we need some kind of outlet for our creativity. Humans are designed to “make” whether it’s a physical creation, beautiful social media posts, or a tasty apple pie. (Mmmm… pie!) Why do we pursue creativity and making? Sometimes, it’s to relieve boredom. Other times, we use it to create things/tools to make our lives easier or more beautiful.
So what do you do when your creativity is in the proverbial dumps? Personally, I’ve met this obstacle too many times over the past two years. Writer’s block, winter doldrums, work stress… they’ve all done a number on my creativity. I’ve decided to put together an arsenal of activities for when I’m stuck in the middle of a novel or other project.
Here are some of my creativity buster ideas:
Try a new recipe. My personal forays have been with recipes I’ve seen on the Great British Baking Show. Paul Hollywood has my heart and my calories.
Do a crossword puzzle. It makes you think.
I am such an advocate of crafts that involve your hands. For me, focusing on the stitches in a crochet project or the repetitive nature of weaving and spinning helps me empty my mind of all the stuff that clogs it up during the day and makes room for creative ideas.
Garden. I’m not a big gardener, but my husband is. Every year, he plants more tomatoes and beans then I want to can.
Those are just a few ideas. I would love to hear how you “create” in your daily lives and why.
Here’s a picture of one of my completed projects– a Spiderman afghan for my nephews.
Yes, I do talk to myself, and no, I don’t answer. Well, let me clarify. This Friday’s writing tip is to read your writing aloud. When I finished my historic mystery novel this year and started the editing process, I read every word. Out loud.
I read it aloud to myself (and the two JRTs that share my writing space) so I could hear those repetitive words and awkward sentences. Doing this helped me catch unique phrases I may have used twice in the same page. It also forced me to slow down the editing process. When you take the time to read out loud it helps you notice each word, the cadence of your prose, and if your character “talks” like a real person.
If you’re new to writing or in the second draft of your novel and haven’t tried this editing tip, I encourage you to attempt it. If you feel funny reading aloud, grab your cell phone and hold it to your ear. Just don’t be like the lady in the stall next to mine at the store. You should not (let me say it again) you should NOT talk on the phone in a public bathroom. It makes me think you’re talking to me, and my mother warned me never to talk to strangers!
This image appeared on the front page of the Abilene Daily Record on November 11,1918. World War I ended and the nation worked to recover. The generation who came of age during World War I and into the Roaring Twenties was often called the Lost Generation because they tended to act recklessly. Hedonism and accumulation of wealth were the creed by which many of them lived.
Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many other writers and artists were part of this Lost Generation. For me, I always think of a bohemian lifestyle coming into fashion during this time period. I see the loss of traditional values and class structures of the nineteenth century and the rise of the middle class after World War I.
In my latest novel, my protagonist, Evie, reels from the loss of her brother in the war followed quickly by the death of her mother from the Spanish Flu. Evie epitomizes the Lost Generation. She rejects the strictures of her Victorian era father and wants a sense of purpose outside of marriage and family. It is this loss of values which leads her to go undercover as a magician’s assistant to solve a crime.
This past month I’ve been teaching research to fourth and fifth graders. I have each of them choosing a topic they have a passion for (sports, social issue, art, etc.), and then they learn more about their topic using the internet, databases, and books. Their final project must be a creative representation and two minute talk about what they learned.
I have a passion for writing and creativity which has led to me delving deeper into the creativity process. Can creativity be taught? Are all people creative? How do you tap into creativity? These are all burning questions I’ll explore further with a weekly creativity tip or activity I’ll share on Monday’s Muse on Creativity.
This week’s creativity exercise: Imagine your character is deathly afraid of heights. They agree to go on a hot air balloon ride with friends. They shut their eyes tight during the flight. What takes place in the minutes after they board the hot air balloon? – adapted from Regina Pacelli’s Whole Lotta Creativity Going On. *
*I highly recommend this book if you are looking for quick activities to spark your creativity. Available at public libraries and all major bookstores.
I’m happy to announce the words “the end” were typed on the first book in a new mystery series based in the 1920s entertainment industry. Switching from my comfort zone of the Phee Jefferson series to a historical mystery stretched my librarian research skills and my writing.
Today’s tip involves editing. Once you finish your first draft, walk away and DO NOT look back… at least for a week or two. Here’s why. You have marinated in your characters’ lives and your plot for months, possibly years, and they have become your children. You need some distance to recognize their flaws. Ask my grown sons. Now that they are out of the house, I can recognize them as separate entities with lives and personalities of their own. Your novel characters are the same. They need some distance. Some breathing room. Once you’ve had the break, go back and look at your manuscript with fresh eyes. Remember, you want your children (and your novel) to have a personality and life story separate from your own.