I always assumed that the writers I look up to (Stephen King, James Patterson, Stuart Woods, Lea Wait, Jennifer Crusie, and many others) are surrounded by inspiration. That is, until I decided to start taking my writing seriously. One of the first affirmations I chose for myself was “I do not wait for inspiration to write, I am inspired by writing.” If I wait to be inspired, I won’t touch a keyboard for weeks, even months, because life gets in the way. There are so many demands on our time, that we don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to hit. One of the young writers I work with years ago told me the blank page staring at her freaks her out, and asked how I can sit down and just start typing. “What inspires you?” she asked.
The answer for me is competition. In order for me to be successful, I have to be accountable to someone other than myself. It’s way to easy to lie to myself and bargain with myself. I believe me and fall for it every time. At this point, I have eight completed novels (one published, one in the editing stages and the remainder in rough draft stage). I would never have gotten there if it were not for four very important things – in no particular order: Book-in-a-Week (BIC HOK TAM!!!), National Novel Writing Month, my critique group (this is a talented group: Colleen Donnelly, Ericca Thornhill, Carolyn Branch and Jennifer Bondurant – pay attention to those names. You’ll see them on the best seller list someday), and my friend Lynn.
I need that push, that drive, that accountability, which is currently offered by my critique group. And there used to be NaNo (this is only the 2nd year I haven’t competed). All of my completed novels started as NaNo novels (by the way, our little region frequently finaled in the top 10 for the average production per writer list!! Kudos to us!!). And that’s how I got hooked up with my writers’ group. I really like these people, and even though I only see them occasionally, we share a unique bond. I joined up as a Nano’er and stuck with them throughout the year. It is well worth it to have a face-to-face meeting with other writers. We writers are a different breed. By our very nature, many of us have tendencies towards introversion. This gives us a chance to talk to others that understand our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our frustrations.
So, that’s what does it for me. Accountability and competition.
And the chance to meet some fantabulous women for breakfast every other Saturday!
I encourage you to give serious thought to what inspires you. Do not wait for inspiration to hit. It doesn’t knock on your door and ask if now is a convenient time. Surround yourself with inspiration. Think about what fires you up and makes you productive. It may be something like a support group, or it may be something completely different, such as having a ritual before you begin writing. Once you find something that inspires you, incorporate it into your life, and start making your dreams become realities, bit by bit.
For years, I put my daughter first. She has now flown the coop. For the first time in my life, as an empty nester, I do not feel guilty putting myself first. But what does that mean? How do I make myself a priority? Today is a perfect example. I took the day off. A whole, entire day to myself, by myself. Feels decadent. And it is. But it is also work. I have a LOT that I want to accomplish today, because my time is precious. And by extension, by recognizing that my time is precious, I am recognizing that I am precious. I am editing, critiquing, drafting. I’m having so much fun! :o)
Over the past several months, I have done a few things for me and allowed my wants and needs to be a priority:
Hmmm. Looking over this list, I note a trend. Went. Travel and experiences are important to me. By experiencing new things, I grow. I learn. What have you done for you lately? How are you making yourself a priority?
This post got my attention right from the get go – I constantly struggle with worrying and let it get in the way of the creative process. Great post.
Many of us just know we have it in us to produce some good writing of value. Yet, either anxiety doesn’t let us get there or makes us so slow that there’s no progress over long periods of time.
Some of us lose ourselves in the rituals we develop around writing–getting coffee, cleaning our desks, decorating a study room. Others wait for the perfect moment when writing will appear with the muse.
I’d say the only thing that can exorcise writing anxiety is a few pages of writing itself. And the only thing that can make you better at writing is more writing. Lots of it.
So how do you stop worrying and start writing?
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I’ve never thought of myself as a creative person, but I write, scrapbook and papercraft. Though I usually share writing, I thought I’d share a layout with you today.
This is a layout about my great-aunt Eula. This was when my mom and her brother (Joe, in the photo with Eula) surprised Eula with a cake for her 90th birthday. When she walked into the room, her face registered disbelief, surprise and happiness. It was a fun weekend, and I was glad we got to help her celebrate her birthday.
This year, I turned 45. It has been a tumultuous year so far. After I turned 45, we had the whirlwind of my daughter’s senior year, culminating with Prom and Graduation. Then she moved out, which has been a struggle for me. But as I look at this photo of Eula, I realize that this year is but a blip. It is the way of life – we raise our children, then they leave. That’s the way it should be. And now that she has moved out, it is my turn. I can explore my creative pursuits and get to know me again.
What have you let take a back seat over the past few years? Are you ready to explore?
My life is in transition now. I thought I was doing a good job of preparing for the Empty Nest, but when my daughter moved out unexpectedly, I was forced to transition sooner. That got me to thinking about the Path each of us takes during our lifetimes. It’s not about forging a path. “Forge” isn’t really the right word. Forge indicates a forceful manufacture – I picture a blacksmith holding a blazing red chunk of iron in a roaring fire, then pounding that metal into shape with every swing of his heavy hammer. Clang-clink! Clang-clink!
That is not what we do. Instead, it is a more organic process. We create a path. It zigs this way and that, occasionally backtracking. The Path may be fast and swift, through a clearing, but more often it is slow-going, over and around obstacles.
Creating my own Path has been difficult at times, and as I look back over the years, I realize that there were many, many crossroads where I had a decision to make. According to string theory, each of those crossroads created a new universe. In another universe, I may well exist as a canoe-paddling explorer out to chart new waters in the Boundary Waters along the US-Canadian border (trivia: I took a bunch of Girl Scouts on a 3-day backpacking trip in the BW area. It was an exercise in patience and survival.). In another, I may be an Olympian guiding my hunter-jumper over spine-tingling jumps. But in this world, I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, paralegal, writer, animal lover.
What was an important crossroad for me? Going to the World Affairs Seminar comes to mind. At that seminar (thank you, Centralia Rotary Club, for sending me!), I suddenly realized that there was a whole world beyond my little hometown. Talking to students from all over the world was an eye-opener. My weekly thoughts were “What movie am I going to see with my boyfriend?” and “What color should I paint my nails?” It was mind-boggling to talk to other kids the same age as me, who were thinking things like “Is Mutual Assured Destruction really a smart foreign policy?” and “Should the US government be aiding rebels in Central America?” After listening to folks from the State Department and talking to other teenagers who actually cared about more than themselves, I decided my own future deserved a little more attention. Although I was tired of school, I went to college determined to earn my degree and do something worthwhile with my life (which is why I decided to go into education).
Creating your Path is an individual thing. When you reach a crossroads moment, ask yourself the following questions:
Please share below the crossroads that have had an impact on your Path.
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