Most writers agree that no one, other than the NY Times bestsellers, makes money writing books. One measure of wealth is the acquisition of assets. If like me, you’ve experienced the agony of downsizing, you may appreciate how getting rid of stuff may be more difficult than accumulating it. Seven years ago, we sold the ten-room house we had owned for thirty-three years. It had a cellar, a garage, and a shed. All filled with stuff.
The plan was for us to frolic half the time in St. John in a darling cottage in Coral Bay overlooking Hurricane Hole. The remainder of the time we would spend on outer Cape Cod in a vintage trailer, affectionately known as the tindominium. Two back-to-back category five-plus hurricanes levered our plans in St. John, then the pandemic knocked Plan B off the map. So, we live small, have gotten used to it, and our refuge has become the huge natural world of beaches and trails outside our tiny tindo.
But sometimes I miss stuff. I see an ad for an antique desk on Facebook and I want it. Or the emerald green velvet fainting couch at a local antique shop. Sometimes I miss having a big house with tall ceilings and windows I could decorate. I don’t want to buy a bigger house or any of the stuff I admire, but still, there is a longing. A longing that is fulfilled by my life as a writer.
I’ve learned asset acquisition doesn’t require a bill of sale or a deed. My imagination appropriates whichever asset I am currently enchanted by, sometimes slightly obsessed with, and gives it to one of my characters in my work-in-progress.
That villa in No Virgin Island where Sabrina Salter first saw the body of a dead man slung back onto a hammock next to an octagonal pool? It was my favorite place to escape to on St. John for vacations for decades and the one house in the world I would buy if it were still standing.
I am drawn to an antique Greek revival home on the back roads near me. The sun casts shadows on it at the end of the day that entice me to break in and see what it looks like inside. Rather than becoming a criminal, I gave the house to Rick, a hardened homicide cop, whose life inside his gentile home showcases his softer side. I googled the house and found photos from the last sale. Then I redecorated it for Rick.
Olivia Rose was born to have a conservatory, so I gave her one in a beautiful Tudor home located on Moss Hill in Jamaica Plain, Boston. I filled the conservatory with plants and furniture I love, and coincidentally so does Olivia. (You’ll have an opportunity soon to visit Olivia’s conservatory but that’s also a blog for another day.)
When I first saw the snazzy Jeep Rubicons people drive in to Cape Cod from urban areas (a blog for another day), I knew Nora O’Brien, the newbie lawyer, daughter of Danny O’Brien of Oh Danny Girl had to have one and she did.
I decorate houses in my books, dress characters in clothes I never could or would wear, have as much pleasure as if I had personally acquired them. I never have buyer’s remorse and don’t spend a penny. I never have to agonize about whether they spark joy or not. I have wealth only a writer can gain. The only price I pay is exercising my imagination.
How do you use your imagination to bring joy into your writing?