Boosting Your Creativity: A Cautionary Tale

maggie-king-3Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including the recently-released Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She contributed the stories “A Not So Genteel Murder” and “Reunion at Shockoe Slip” to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

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Walking is my #1 creativity booster. Pulling weeds is #2. Both activities are relaxing, allowing my mind to wander and come up with some of my best story ideas. I can work out sticky plot points and energize my lethargic characters.

But I need to keep at least part of my mind on my surroundings. I don’t care to have my creative flow rudely shut off by walking in the path of a car, landing in a ditch, or falling off a curb. Neither do I want to suddenly realize that I’m holding Rhusradicans, aka poison ivy, in my bare hand. But that’s just what happened.

Heavy rains in Richmond, Virginia this past summer resulted in a profusion of weeds. I dutifully collected my garden tools and got to work. Now I know that poison ivy lurks at the end of my garden and I’ve had run-ins with the pretty but unwelcome weed before (it always wins), but I was mentally writing an especially riveting scene and then …


I snapped out of my reverie, ran in the house, scrubbed my hands, and threw my clothes in the washer. Nothing happened for three days, then just a small bump on my hand. Hmm, maybe I’ll be lucky this time. Two days later, what looked like a couple of innocent mosquito bites appeared on my arm. I felt smug, thinking I’d finally outsmarted the crafty poison ivy.

murder-at-the-moonshine-innBut the dreaded weed had the last laugh. The next day my whole body looked like I’d gone to war. And those mosquito bites—guess what they were. Like I said, I’ve tangled with poison ivy before but this was my worst outbreak. According to my research, sensitivity to the toxin can increase with age. Yet another reason to avoid aging.

I had two author events in early August. I plastered makeup on my face, hoping to hide the rash that decorated the left side of my face. Thankfully, it doesn’t show in any pictures.

As for that riveting scene I was composing in my head—it melted away, like those elusive fragments of dreams.

How to escape my fate:

·         Keep your eyes open

·         Have a voice recorder handy to capture your brilliant thoughts

·         Get rid of the danged weed. Find and hire someone in the 20% of the population who isn’t allergic to poison ivy

·         Avoid yard word altogether and find another way to boost your creativity

The Coasters said it all in their hit song, Poison Ivy:

maggie-king-poison-ivyShe comes on like a rose but everybody knows
She’ll get you in Dutch
You can look but you better not touch

Poison ivy, poison ivy
Late at night while you’re sleepin’
Poison ivy comes a-creepin’ around