From the time we’re born—and even in the womb—we learn about the world through our senses. Inspiration comes in the same way, or for me it does. It also comes more often with a whisper than a shout, although I do have those wonderful eureka moments.
Sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touches imprint themselves most strongly on me when they come with laughter, with a sense of awe, or with a simple joy. From mishearing a line in a peanut butter commercial to being stuck in an airport, incidents and quips overheard in conversations are a delight. Someday they’ll all make it into a novel or short story.
Where have I heard the wackiest comments? In women’s restrooms. Other top contenders for my Funny Conversation Hotspots are restaurants, airports, and the grocery store. Not just the checkout line, either. Listening to shoppers debate one brand of paper towels over another can be a scream. Especially if the shopper is talking to herself. And most especially if that shopper is me!
The number one inspiration for my Silver Six Crafting Mysteries came during a drive from Oklahoma to my home in Florida. Hubster and I had stopped over in Magnolia, Arkansas for the night, and explored the town square the next morning before going on our way. The streets were all but deserted at the time we were wandering. A few shop owners were busy sweeping their entrances, setting out Thanksgiving decorations, or wheeling clothes racks outside.
On the second block we strolled, a voice called, “Honey. Oh, honey.” When I responded, an elderly lady asked a favor of me. That incident ended up being a scene in Basket Case, partly because I laughed about it for days―a sure sign I had to use it in a book. I thought that the character based on the “Oh, honey” lady would be a throw-away. A one-time appearance. But no, she lives on in Paint the Town Dead, and will be in the third book, too.
Traveling, seeing sites, and meeting new people is also a source of inspiration. I don’t travel all that often, but I recently visited southern California, first attending a writer’s conference in San Diego, and then staying with my daughter in Santa Monica. I didn’t have my own wheels, (and didn’t want to tackle L.A. traffic!), so I observed people as I walked in the park, to the drug store, etc. Several times I spotted adorable little girls in dresses twirling in circles just to make their skirts flare out. The joy on their faces took me back to the days when I did the same thing.
The wildfire in the Santa Clarita Valley mountains burned while I was in CA. The plume of smoke drifting over the area was eerily beautiful, and the sunset was all ominous gray “clouds” lit with brilliant reds and yellows. Awe-inducing in spades!
Aside from vision and hearing, tastes, smells, and textures provide moments of inspiration. The aroma of okra frying takes me to my mother’s kitchen. The taste of ocean breezes on my tongue transport me to Camp Pendleton in southern California, the first place this land-locked Oklahoma girl saw the ocean. I’m a tactile person, so the things I touch speak to me as well. The innocence of a baby’s cap of silky hair, the rough beauty of old bricks, fine, warm sand under my feet. Each sensation feeds part of my soul.
So when do I have those shout-out eureka moments? Most often they come when I’m editing a work-in-progress and find a gold nugget. A nugget otherwise known as a story element I built in but haven’t yet used to its full potential. I massage those elements and before I know it, Eureka! The manuscript is leaps and bounds better!
Whether we use inspiration in our creative pursuits, for business solutions, or to glean spiritual insights, we are all inspired beings.
So, the next time you’re driving and take an on-the-fly detour, trust that it will take you somewhere you haven’t been, show you something you haven’t seen. Trust that somehow you’ll be inspired!
Thanks for being with me today!
Nancy Haddock is an award-winning and national bestselling cozy mystery author. Basket Case is her first book in the Silver Six Crafting Mystery series with Berkley Prime Crime, and the second book, Paint the Town Dead, is a Sept. 2016 release. Nancy draws on historic wealth, southern culture, and the plain old quirkiness of places and people for her books. She lives with her husband and rescue dog Baron.
PAINT THE TOWN DEAD: A Silver Six Crafting Mystery by Nancy Haddock, September 6, 2016, $7.99