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Journeying to Wild Places for Inspiration

Happy Monday, everyone! 

I’m writing this post from the deck of our house on the coast of Maine. We inherited my husband’s grandfather’s vintage home and property in this small lobster-fishing village ten years ago and have been fixing it up. It is beautiful up here and cool in the summer, in complete contrast to my sweltering home in North Carolina. So my family and I retreat up here for three weeks each July. 

 

 

 

 

I’ve learned from our visits that the USA has so many different cultures and landscapes. Jonesport, Maine is like a different planet compared to our suburban home in NC. The people, the weather, the daily living, even the color of the dirt and wildness of the terrain are so varied. The differences spark an awakening in my author brain. 

When life and daily living are routine, we tend to glance over the small details. Our lives can become flat, which translates into flat, boring writing. By visiting another world, we become aware of the little details, the brilliant little divots in the perceived smoothness of the life around us. These details breathe new life into my writing. Even doing things that I normally do (like morning yoga) feels completely different in a new location.

I’ve met such amazing characters here. The couple that visits hospital cafeterias in towns as they travel to find nutritious, cheap food instead of stopping at Burger King or McDonald’s. The 80-year-old man who still moves scaffolding all on his own to fix our roof. The woman who is writing a book full of cliches because she likes them. The goat farm family who sells cheese and soap. The physically challenged man who uses his eye movements to type out his stories at the small library across the road. The couple who tried to have sex on our cabin porch next door until we sicked our friend, the angry Irishman, on them. The winery owners who make the sweetest blueberry wine. The list goes on and on, and the character details fill my brain. 

The landscapes are also enrapturing. Fog that snakes around the island before our house, which seems to have a mind of its own. The seals basking in the sun on the small islands a short boat ride away. The lobster boats chugging in and out of the reach. The boulders poking up through the moss-covered pine forest like giants’ kneecaps. 

Top of Blueberry Hill overlooking Spring River Lake

I’ve only been here a week, and so far we’ve gotten trapped on an island by the incoming tide and had to run through the freezing water rising over the connecting sandbar. We’ve canoed a lake, climbing an unmarked mountain to eat sweet wild blueberries at the top while sitting on a painted American flag. We’ve explored two marked hiking trails and seen a seal bob up right off the cliffs, with a feisty lobster in its mouth. We’ve watched lobster crate races, lobster boat races, a parade, half a dozen bald eagles and fireworks that we couldn’t see because of the fog (looked like a naval battle in the smoke) and my husband hypnotize a lobster before we steamed him (the lobster, not my husband).

Hypnotized lobster – see what a Marine Biology degree will teach you!

Wild Maine Blueberries – can’t get more organic than this!

The sounds and smells are different from NC. Pine, primroses, the sweetness of moss and wildflowers in the forest, the smell of the tides. The lapping of water and chugging of lobster boats fill the air, punctuated by the caw of seagulls and rustle of wind through the trees. 

Enjoying the warmth of the rocks while watching the ocean.

All of the details are interesting because they are distant from my usual daily life. And even though I am not currently writing a Maine set book with a vengeful fog antagonist, my mind feels more awake than it has in months. My words flow more easily, and I can breathe. 

So, my advice is to try to seek out “the wild” in contrast to your tame, normal environment. Whether that means going to New York City when you live in the country or heading to the beach when you normally wake up to mountains. Even driving to a new town in your state where you can investigate a local museum or new library can inspire. Sit and breathe and take in the people and landscape around you. Give your muse something new about which to be curious. It will awaken your writer’s mind.

What journeys have inspired you? Have you met a character or experienced a landscape/setting that will or has found its way into one of your books?

P.S. The house and both little cottages are for rent during May, June, August and September each year. The VRBO links are below if you’re interested, and they are also on Airbnb. 

Primrose Cottage

Lupine Cottage

The McCollum House

 

10 responses to “Journeying to Wild Places for Inspiration”

  1. Sounds lovely and adventurous. Didn’t know you could hypnotize a lobster, I’ll have to look for that class. Enjoy your time and filling your brain with amazing characters.

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    • Heather D McCollum says:

      Thanks, Patti!
      You rub his back in long even strokes for half a minute or so and he goes limp for several minutes and then wakes up. : )

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  2. What a wonderful post, Heather! A great reminder to get out of our boxes and experience the world and life. New ideas always come to me when I do. I love the characters you are surrounded by, Lol. Do they know you write?

    Your vaca home is lovely. I would love to visit it one day.

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    • Heather D McCollum says:

      Thanks, Autumn! Some know I write but most do not. : ) I’ll have to change the names but it’s pretty obvious who I’m writing about. LOL!

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  3. Rita Henuber says:

    Beautiful area. Enjoy your time there.

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  4. I’m a big travel junkie, always have been, and I love experiencing new places and cultures. It’s amazing the way travel can change the way we look at the world. One of the best things for a writer’s tool kit, in my opinion. I don’t know that I’ve ever met any characters, per se, but I meet a lot of interesting people.

    It’s always fascinating to get away and see the world in a new way. 🙂

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  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    What a fun post, Heather! Your property looks lovely. It looks like the perfect place for a getaway, or a solo/group writing retreat!

    I grew up in northern Minnesota, then moved to the southern part of the state to go to school, then stayed. There are distinct cultural differences between the two geographic locations, many of which factor into my Underbelly Chronicles series. One of the favorite scenes I’ve ever written features an off-planet (alien) vampire walking into a northern MN dive bar.

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  6. Lovely post, Heather, and lovely home! You’re spot on about the lusciousness and richness of seeking out vacation spots so very different from where we live. I live in the desert Southwest in a metro area of six million people, and I’m drawn to vacations in tiny mountain towns with rivers and lakes and luscious green meadows. Happy vacationing, Ruby Sis!

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  7. Elisa Beatty says:

    Such gorgeous pictures!!!!

    I agree–time in a different locale, or even out in nature near your own home, does wonderful things to the brain.

    My family went just ten minutes to hike in a eucalyptus grove by San Francisco Bay yesterday, and the colors (the blue blue sky and the tawny summer grass on the rolling hills) and the undulating flocks of red-winged blackbirds woke my brain right up.

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  8. Jacie Floyd says:

    Beautiful retreat! We all someplace to refill the well. My happy place and best inspiration is always the beach. Give me sand and sun and I’m good all day long.

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