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Props can feed the creativity furnace

My writers’ group just left and I’m freshly infused with unbridled enthusiasm. So typical! Double rounds of tea served with the healthiest type of brownie possible (that would include protein and fiber and minimal fat), followed by red pear and cheddar cheese, all accompanied our usual round robin of anecdotes and the reading of our newest works.

Several years ago, while trying to reconnect with a project that had been set aside, I decided that story props strategically placed near my computer would be helpful in the writing process. That summer, I came across an antique doll, all of 5″ tall, at an antiques fair, and thought she would make the perfect “Lydia” to sit atop my computer monitor. The $95 price tag was a deterrent and so I left the sellers’ tent without her. But I’ve never found a better replacement. I mentioned my search to a friend one day. Her eyes lit up, she scurried out to her side porch and came back beaming, presenting me with two mini Madame Alexander dolls that had been in a MacDonald’s Happy Meal promotion. She’d collected piles of them and was happy to share her loot! But neither Rain Girl nor Lady Bug Girl really fit my character and both felt too modern. Sometime later their doll-sister, Dorothy, joined them on my shelf and here they are. Every time I look at them I am reminded of Lydia and her tale, although they are not quite the right inspiration to perch on the monitor and speak for my character.

Lisa Allen Three sisters

I was able to finish the manuscript without my Lydia doll. Antique images of shop keepers on Main Street, printed from the archives at the Nantucket Historical Association, copies of 1830s editions of the island’s newspaper, and my own memories of my first paid job in Nantucket’s historical house museums (my friend and I lemon-oiled the furniture, earning $2 an hour), got me through.

So now the manuscript is on to the next stage of its life: the search for an agent and publisher. To help it along, as much to buoy my belief that it will become more than my own private endeavor, umpteen-thousand words in a word file on the computer, as in the spirit of the Law of Attraction, I made a vision board for it. The good thing is that the process of collaging image-and-words really made me think about what it is I want next. And I have to tell you, leads to the people who can help bring this story into print are popping up in the most unexpected situations!

Lisa Allen vision board safe harbor
One of my friends makes a vision board for her characters and then records a CD of the music that they would listen to, so that she is completely immersed in their world while she writes. I think I’ll try that for my current project, a novel set in two cultures and continents.
But tell me, what do you do to keep the writer in you writing? I’d love to know. …

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Keri April 4, 2008, 1:32 pm

    Lovely. I’m going to share your vision board idea with my writing buddy, Mystical Marge. 😀

    Thanks so much for sharing! You would not believe the piles of books on writing ideas that we drag along with us to our weekly writing meet ups. And we’re now planning our next trip to South Dakota. It was funny – I was posting that photo of her and writing up the little blip about her and she was at the same time writing to a few cabin owners out in SD to ask about prices because she was also getting the urge to head west. So here we go!

    I think connecting with spirit and being present…

    Have you got a bottle of lemon polish sitting beside your computer? I think a little of that scent needs to be there to help take you back. Scent is very powerful for memory and it might help bring some powerful imagery into your writing, too!

  • Fran March 27, 2008, 12:47 pm

    Hey Lisa, I have a couple of those little dolls in a little trunk in a box in one of my closets–from my childhood. I remember that Grams crocheted some dollclothes for them. Gosh, I haven’t looked at them in years. They must be over 50 years old! Can’t respond about writing, because I don’t do much of it. 🙂 But I love your vision board.

  • Lynda March 22, 2008, 1:28 pm

    Have a happy Easter, Lisa!

  • Loretta March 21, 2008, 1:46 pm

    I SO LOVE THIS! I am going to make a vision board for my novel right away and I’m going to make one for my art career in general.

    I actually made an entire artist book for one novel. The magazine published just the cover of it for one article last year. I LOVE making these.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • CuriousC March 20, 2008, 8:48 am

    Fascinating – my first visit to your blog and I’m captivated. Per your question, just sitting patiently with my blank book can stir up all sorts of words. I’m off to read more of your blog now. Thank you.