Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Productive Waiting

Monday, February 13th, 2017

I jokingly posted on Twitter yesterday that so much of writing is waiting, so someone should teach a class on Productive Waiting. I got enough “likes” that I assume my post touched a chord, so today I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on how to be productive while waiting.

This topic is big for me right now, because I’ve got a novel out on submission. Every time the phone rings or an email pops up in my inbox, my heart goes into overdrive. It would be tempting just to sit all day, staring at my phone, waiting to hear news from my agent, but if I did that, I’d go insane.

The key to enduring an agonizing wait is to find ways to distract yourself. The stock advice once you’ve finished a writing project is to start the next book, but what if you don’t yet have a new book in the pipeline? There are other things you can do to assure that your waiting time is productive.

Here are some things I do while I’m waiting:

1. Take a break. Yes, it’s counter to the traditional wisdom of “butt in chair,” but sometimes after the completion of a major project, your mind – and body- need a rest. This is the time to fill the well: go someplace you’ve never visited, spend time with friends you’ve neglected, indulge in some much-needed self-care.

2. Connect. Write a blog post or comment on other writer’s blogs. Post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and interact with others on your social media site of choice. Participate in a writing-related online chat.

3. Write for fun. Put “product” aside and focus on process. Find a writing prompt online (I particularly enjoy the daily prompts at WritersDigest.com.) or in a craft book. Let yourself go and see what happens.

4. Brainstorm ideas. If you don’t have your next book mapped out, this is a good time to start collecting ideas. Give your imagination free reign. Use newspaper headlines, overheard conversations, or your responses to writing prompts (see above) to inspire you. Try resurrecting an old idea and combining it with a new idea to create something surprising.

5. Read. Prime your pump by reading. Read craft books, books in your genre, books outside your genre. Read poetry, read newspapers and magazines, read blogs.

6. Research. Pick a topic that interests you and research it. Start online, but move on to the library and then to hands-on experiences. You never know: your research might show up in your next book.

These are just a few of the ways that you can make your wait time productive, even if you’re not ready to start your next book. I’d love to chat longer, but I hear my phone ringing….

What do you do to distract yourself while you wait?

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

I don’t do many book reviews on this blog, but I’m currently reading a book that’s blowing my mind: BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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I almost didn’t pick this one up, because I wasn’t a huge fan of her blockbuster memoir, EAT, PRAY, LOVE. But thanks to a friend who recommended it, I decided to give Gilbert another chance – and boy, am I glad I did.

In BIG MAGIC, Gilbert doesn’t teach you how to write; she gives suggestions on how to live a creative life. Although the ideas she presents could apply to any artistic endeavor, because the author is a writer herself, the book focuses on the writing process. Giving examples from her own life and work, Gilbert discusses such issues as courting inspiration, dealing with rejection, and staying the course. While I’ve read scores of books about all of these topics, Gilbert manages to approach each one in a unique way. In talking about finding inspiration, for example, she doesn’t counsel writers to carry around a notebook or scour newspaper headlines. Instead, she advises thinking of ideas as actual beings out there in the ether, each one looking for a home. If you make yourself available, one of them will find you. And when it does, your job is to commit yourself to it and pledge your heart and soul to giving that idea a voice in the world.

One of the sections of the book that particularly speaks to me is titled “Day Job.” I’ve often bemoaned the fact that I have to work for a living and so can’t spend all of my time creating. But according to Gilbert, having a day job to support you is a good thing. Why put pressure on your creativity to singlehandedly shoulder your financial burdens? she asks. There’s a good chance your muse won’t feel up to the task and will take off for greener pastures.

In short, BIG MAGIC won’t change the way I write, but it will forever change my attitude toward writing. Instead of cursing the ups and downs of the writing life, thanks to the advice in the pages of this book, I’ll be grateful for the times that creativity finds me and offer myself unconditionally to its service.

Go-to Blogs for Writing Advice

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Of the scads of blogs out there aimed at writers, many of them useful and informative, a few rise to the top of my list when I need advice (what should the first paragraph of my query letter contain?), information (which agents are currently accepting unsolicited submissions?) or inspiration. Bookmark the blogs listed below. Or better yet, subscribe. You won’t regret it.

Kristin Lamb’s blog

Not only is this blog informative, with meaty posts on such topics as story structure, character, social media, and marketing, it’s also written in Kristin Lamb’s fun, hip style and peppered with lots of quirky visuals. Comment, and you could win discounted attendance to a webinar or a manuscript evaluation by Kristin herself.

Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating blog

This blog, aimed at both writers and illustrators of children’s and YA books, offers several weekly features including Illustrator Sunday, inspirational guest posts by Erika Wassall, The Jersey Farm Scribe, and – my favorite – first-page critiques by both new and longtime agents. It was through one of these critiques that I got the go-ahead to submit a full manuscript to a top agent. Even though she ultimately rejected it, I was grateful to the Writing and Illustrating blog for allowing me to get my foot in the door.

K.M. Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors blog

After following this author on Twitter and enjoying her interactive posts, I subscribed to her blog and found a treasure trove of writing resources, including informative articles and useful charts, as well as videos and podcasts on the craft of writing. If you subscribe as I did, she’ll send an instructive newsletter to your inbox every week and provide you with a free e-book download.

C.S. Lakin’s Live WriteThrive blog

A new favorite for me, C. S. Larkin’s blog is full of nitty-gritty information on how to structure your novel, make your writing sing, and rise to the top of bestseller lists. I found her posts so helpful that I checked out her book The Twelve Key Pillars of Novel Construction, which now ranks among my most-dogeared writing books.

I pop in and out of a lot of blogs, but these are the ones I’ve either subscribed to or bookmarked for frequent visits. How about you? Which writing blogs have you found most useful?

Of hoodoos and galoots

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

I just got back from a long-anticipated trip to the national parks of Utah. As we planned the trip, I dreamed of hiking in sun drenched canyons and marveling at exotic rock formations. But my dreams couldn’t match the incredible beauty that we found in Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and Snow Canyon State Park.

Canyon on Fire Zion

In Zion, I felt a sense of peace I’ve seldom experienced, even though the park was crowded with people. Something about staring up and up – and UP – at those impassive stone walls assured me of a presence beyond myself, solid and stable and impervious to time.

Field of HooDoo Bryce

In Bryce Canyon, I encountered an alien world of exquisite rock formations called “hoodoos.” I could have wandered among them for days, drinking in the eerie beauty of the castles and fortresses they seemed to create. And in Snow Canyon State Park, we climbed on galoots, giant mounds of petrified sandstone that glowed pinkish-orange in the Utah sunset.

I knew this would be a fun vacation, but it turned out to be so much more than that. I came home with a new sense of myself and my life, and I realized that for a writer, or any creative person, travel is not a luxury but a necessity. You don’t have to travel far to be transported, but that transportation – that sense of being swept out of your ruts and routines, your assumptions and even your worldview, is essential. I’m well aware that not everyone can afford to travel, and I’m grateful for this opportunity I had to experience myself and my surroundings in a new way.

How will this journey affect my writing? I truly don’t know. Certainly, multitudes of story ideas raced through my head as I hiked among the hoodoos and climbed the galoots. But it’s not so much the thoughts I had during the trip that mattered; it was stepping into a different world that will allow me to come back my work with a fresh perspective.

Have you ever taken a trip that changed you? How did it affect your writing?

 

How to tell if an idea for a novel will fly

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

I’m toying with an idea for a new novel. This is always a sticky part of the writing process for me, because I have a hard time knowing whether my ideas are any good or whether, once I start writing, they’ll go into auto-destruct. That said, I have started to recognize a few indications that an idea might have wings.

1. I haven’t seen many recent books on the same topic. Obviously, I don’t want to waste my time writing something that’s been overdone. So I just say no to another book about vampires or angels, unless I’ve got a completely new spin on it. The idea I’ve been tinkering with lately hasn’t been addressed at all, that I’m aware of, which is a good sign.

2. The idea scares me a little. Every time I write a novel, I go in thinking, “I can’t possibly write about that!” Which means that when I actual do write it, I’m taking a risk – and risky books are usually the books worth reading. The idea I have right now feels really risky to me – another indication that I should probably go ahead and write it.

3. Just thinking about the idea causes explosions of plot and character possibilities in my brain. Some novel premises sound great, but they’re just that: premises. They sit there on the page, looking pretty, but they don’t get my creative juices flowing in terms of what twists and turns a plot might take or what characters might inhabit the story. I don’t yet have a fully-formed plot to go with my idea, but I can definitely see the possibilities.

4. I can state the premise in one sentence. This is a biggie. Sometimes I get ideas so convoluted that they require a paragraph’s worth of explanation. I know an idea is good when it’s simple and clear: My book will be about a _____ (girl/boy/vampire) who wants ________ (to find her father/to win the spelling bee/to suck neck) but can’t because (her mother won’t tell her who he is/he’s dyslexic/he’s allergic to blood.) And no, none of these are my current idea (whew!), but yes, I can describe my potential new novel in one sentence.

I’m still not completely sure that my idea will fly, but so far it’s passing the test. How about you? How do you determine whether a writing idea is worth pursuing?