September 2018: Spooky Tours and How I Get Ideas

Happy fall to all those in the Northern Hemisphere!  This week I pulled out my scarves and boots, started dousing myself (more) in spicy scents, and am trying desperately to resist buying every  Halloween item in the stores.

I recently went on a lecture and tour titled “Grave Robbing 101,” led by author, podcaster, and Atlas Obscura field agent, Adam Selzer.  Adam’s work focuses on weird and eerie history; for “Grave Robbing 101” he led us on a tour of Lincoln Park, a former cemetery, and discussed the history of graverobbing in Chicago during the 19th century.  The tour was fascinating and I spent a lot of it scribbling down story seeds in my notebook.

Writers get asked a lot where they get their ideas–for me, the two richest veins for ideas are real history and live performances (including theatre, music, and live lit).  History provides such great examples of human relationships, desires, and interactions that it’s hard for me to walk away from a history book or documentary without inklings of stories.  History feels like DNA strands for characters–not just for historical fiction, but any story about people.

I’m less certain why live performances inspire me.  My theory is that it stimulates the “flow” state in me.  Flow state is defined as the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task and has been linked to creativity.  In fact, Teresa Amabile, a research psychologist at Harvard University, found evidence that not only are people more creative in flow, they also report being more creative the day after a flow state.  When I watch a performance, I’m completely immersed the experience and I find myself having story ideas connected to the performance for days afterwards.

And with that, I am going write some more about human shenanigans and gaze longingly at black glitter candelabras.  Here’s to a fabulous fall, full of spooky fun and lots of ideas!