No matter how much we enjoy our art or craft of choice, no matter how often we fall into that “zone” of pure bliss when we engage our creative process, most of the time it is still hard work. It is not made any easier when we reach a point of exhaustion and we just do not have any more internal strength to draw upon. The result is this: that novel gets stalled, that half-finished painting sits on an easel, and the lyrics of that song elude the grasp. We need grist for the mill of our creative process.
I overcome this exhaustion and find inspiration in a number of ways, mostly involving going to a place of sensory or intellectual stimulation. For example, this past weekend, I attended the LA Times Festival of Books with my writer’s journal in hand with the sole purpose of gathering ideas and being inspired.
I have heard it stated many times that to learn to write well one should read the works of authors who write well. It also helps to listen to what they say about their writing process. I attended two panels discussions that explored themes in Young Adult fiction and had the opportunity to consider some advice from these authors:
I cannot remember which one of these authors said this, but it struck such a chord that I wrote this in my journal: “Read everything and don’t let anyone tell you what you read or write is wrong.”
Danielle Paige suggested “write beyond your comfort zone.” Sara Benincasa added that you should “follow your fear” when you write. We should incorporate autobiographical themes into our writing by exploring parts of our life and places we have been, even the painful ones.
To the delight of many in the audience, Sara Benincasa also said “write fan fiction because it is awesome.” It is okay to be a fan.
Some more practical advice: “Write it first to get the story down and then go find yourself a publisher,” not the other way around.
Finally, the best bit of instruction was — and again I am sorry I did not note who said it — never apologize for your opinion or point of view. Even today, girls are still taught in school to defer to boys in expressing themselves. This leads to many men being confident in expressing their thoughts while many women apologize for articulating theirs. That is, a man may say “This is such-and-so and it is correct,” whereas a woman may say “I’m sorry, I may be wrong, but I believe such-and-so.” Only apologize for things you have done wrong. Never apologize for a thought or opinion. Be confident in your writing.
I went to the festival hoping to come away with an idea or two on what to write. Instead I learned a few things on HOW to write. My plan going forward is to get out of my comfort zone, face my fears, and start trolling the deep waters of my own experience to write on.
I will strive to write from different points of view.
Lastly, I will cease to use the passive, apologetic, cowardly voice, and adopt a more straightforward one.
The grist mill is starting to turn.