Those of you who follow me on social media already know that I just got back from Hawaii. The primary reason for leaving home during the best season of the year was to be on the dock to greet Paul when he finished the Transpac (a 2225-mile, 9-day sailboat race from LA to Honolulu). But there were other goals as well: take a real vacation. Get in some serious snorkeling, with reef fish (and, as it turned out, turtles). I’m pleased to say all these boxes were successfully checked, along with a ton of fun dinners and catchups with friends both old and new.
But even months ago, when we first started planning, a more selfish thought underlaid it all: a complete change of scene was just what my writing brain needed. And that’s what I want to try to explain here today: how a fresh Aloha perspective re-opened my creative synapses.
Five years ago, in a post called Filling the Idea Tank, I explained that my best ideas come from getting outside, “hunting and gathering experiences that will eventually form the building blocks of a story.” Though we never lost access to our own outside world this past year, what I now realize is that just wandering around one well-known island on my own isn’t all that’s required to stimulate the creative side of my brain. I also need human interaction—both casual and intentional.
The state of Hawai’i has done a fantastic job of reopening to much-needed tourism while minimizing health risks. Since that distant island chain is about as exotic as Americans can get right now, Honolulu was packed with visitors— and most didn’t have anything at all to do with Rhode Island, writing, or sailboat racing. No matter how early I wandered down to the beach, there were surfers and kiters already catching waves and swimmers already diving into 80 degree water. On one morning swim, I surprised a turtle—but not as much as he (or she) surprised me. It was a totally different atmosphere from home, and just exactly what I needed to reawaken my story senses.
I can’t even track for myself the process that leads from something I spot on a tropical getaway to finishing the next book. Certainly the actual details (waving palm trees, bright blue water, all that mountain greenery) won’t ever fit into a novel that takes place on a rocky New England island. But even though I can’t explain it, the magic has already happened. When I sat down again at my desk a few days ago, my fingers and brain were already working together to weave a new story thread into my WIP. Aloha to my creative writing synapses, and welcome back to life.
It’s a magical alchemy, this spinning of stories. And I wouldn’t want to change anything about it—even the built-in uncertainty of not understanding how it works. It forces me to trust the process I stumbled onto with previous books. And of course, it’s also great incentive to get out of my comfort zone and explore the world, hunting and gathering for story-building stimuli, on whatever beach I happen to find myself.