Headstones, creativity, and National Novel Writing Month

marked 2016-11-01 Mt Hope fall 196 (2)
Mt Hope Cemetery, November 1, 2016 (c) Joanne Brokaw

It’s November, and for writers that means National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, when writers set a goal to write1,500 words a day and at the end of the month hopefully have a very rough draft of a novel.

I don’t write fiction, but I’m taking the month to set my own writing goals and hopefully make headway on a nonfiction book I’ve been working on for a while. It was supposed to be done months ago, but despite the mountain of research I’d already done, I seriously underestimated the amount of research I’d still need to do to finish the book.

Fortunately, my amazing publisher was willing to work with me, and we’ve taken a deadline off the table while I’m spending months pulling together all of these notes and files and slips of paper scribbled with cryptic dates and facts. The book is here, for the most part, but it’s like putting together a puzzle that has four million pieces…with pictures printed on both sides.

But oh, so much fun! With more than 350,000 permanent residents buried over 196 acres at historic Mt. Hope Cemetery, I’m constantly stumbling upon fascinating stories of both famous and everyday people.

As I spend the month of November writing – not researching; I’ll get sidetracked by research, and interment records, and interesting epitaphs, and newspaper clippings – I’ve started sharing photos on my Facebook page for readers and friends to use as creative prompts. And I wanted to invite you to play along at home, too!

Head over to my Facebook page to see that day’s photo; if it inspires you creatively, let me know! A painting, a poem, a story? I’ll also periodically share what I’ve been working on.

The photo you see today is of Mt. Hope Cemetery, taken while I was on a walk earlier this week. The foliage was – and still is – glorious, the temperature in the high 60s, and the critters scampering like mad to prepare for the coming winter. This was at the end of almost three hours walking through the cemetery. It was taken in the far back section, where people are buried in rows of single graves, as opposed to family plots. It’s secluded, which is why people often come here to let their dogs run off leash (in violation of the city’s leash laws; but I digress).

If you’re looking for a moment of solitude in this hectic election season, head to your local cemetery and take a walk. Trust me, it’ll put your life – and the craziness blasting across the headlines – into perspective.

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