Posts tagged with: inspiration
Posted by Gwynlyn MacKenzie Aug 8 2014, 12:01 am in craft, inspiration, perseverance, voice, writing tools
My children came into the world with two sets of grandparents and two sets of great-grandparents. Safe within the nurturing embrace of their large and loving family, they thrived.
I can’t recall whether Son was in kindergarten or first grade, but one day, he arrived home confused and agitated. A classmate claimed to have no grandparents. How could that be?
The shattering of normal had begun.
This is one of my favorite memes (sorry, Angelica, but Carolyn will always be Morticia to me). In one pithy sentence, the truth is revealed: Normal isn’t a wide brush that coats every life with the same paint. It’s a series of brushes comprised of various materials, camel hair, boar bristles, razor wire, each a different width and bearing a different color.
We’ve all heard or read about that mystical, magical, elusive element called Voice. From whence does it come? How do I get it?
The answer is simple. As you experience life, you acquire streaks, stripes, and spots of matte, satin, gloss, and glitter. It’s from that chromatic chaos tinting the neutral base of your inherent nature Voice emerges.
Voice is you–who you were, are, and even who you will become. If planning your next visit to an exotic land is your normal, that adventurous spirit will traipse across the page. A perennial optimist? Sunshine will light your words. Pessimist? Gloom will shadow your prose. Try though you might to disguise it, Voice will illuminate the real you.
Have things in your world ever become so overwhelming you wanted to divorce your life? Okay, maybe not divorce, but how about a legal separation? Or, at the very least, a lengthy vacation?
Life will, eventually, test every hope, dream, belief, and perception, pushing you to the edge of your mental and physical endurance. It will leave you asea, battling crashing waves, glowering skies, and circling sharks. Survival will demand all your attention. Day by day, you’ll struggle, hope for rescue, search the horizon for signs of land.
This becomes your normal.
Then, for better or worse, it will change. You’ll look back and either be relieved to have washed ashore or nostalgic for storm clouds because the sun is baking your brain.
Here’s the thing: As much as you curse what- or whoever tossed you overboard, there are things to be learned within your circumstances. Without these lessons, your stories will lack depth, credibility, and empathy.
Your Voice will lack resonance for your reader.
(Just for the record, the same holds true for joy and other aspects of living. Trials, however, seem to sharpen the learning curve.)
Authors, and their work, mature and grow within the framework of each individual’s normal. The frames are all different and constantly changing. Some are heavy and gilded, some thin strips of salvaged wood. Time can strip the gilding, embellish the wood, but within the frame, Voice, although evolving, remains unique.
Thus, I encourage you to reevaluate your normal, the joys, trials, and general messiness of living.
Accept it. Embrace it. Learn from it.
Put it to work.
The vanquished is always servant–or, in the fly’s case, dinner–to the victor.
Posted by Gwynlyn MacKenzie Aug 8 2014, 12:01 am in inspiration, motivation, voice
When my children were born, they had two sets of grandparents and two sets of great-grandparents. They thought nothing of it, safe within the nurturing embrace of a large and loving family.
I can’t recall whether Son was in kindergarten or first grade, but one day, he arrived home confused and agitated. He’d discovered a classmate had no grandparents at all. How could that be?
The shattering of normal had begun.
This is one of my favorite memes (Sorry, Angelica, but Carolyn will always be Morticia to me). In one pithy sentence, the truth is revealed; normal isn’t a wide brush that coats every life with the same paint. It’s a slue of brushes made of various materials, camel hair, boar bristle, razor wire, of varying widths, each bringing a different color to the mix.
We’ve all heard or read about that mystical, elusive element called Voice. From whence does it come? How do I get it?
The answer is simple. You live, experience, and grow, gathering slashes, stripes, and spots of matte, satin, gloss, and glitter. It’s from that chromatic chaos tinting the neutral base of your inherent nature that Voice comes.
Voice is you–who you were, are, and even who you will become—and it relates back to your perception of normal.
Have things in your world ever become so overwhelming you wanted to divorce your life? Okay, maybe not divorce, but how about a legal separation? Or, at the very least, a lengthy vacation?
Life will, eventually, test every hope, dream, belief, and perception, pushing you to the edge of your mental and physical endurance, leaving you asea amid crashing waves, glowering skies, and circling sharks. Survival demands all your attention. The water, clouds, and sharks become the center of your world. Day by day, you struggle, scan the horizon for land, search the sky for rescue.
The sea has become your normal.
Then, for better or worse, it changes. You look back, either relieved to have washed ashore or hoping the clouds will return since the sun is now baking your brain.
Here’s the thing: As much as you curse what- or whoever threw you overboard, every situation is fraught with things you should learn (especially about yourself). Without them, your stories will lack depth, credibility, empathy, and resonance.
Your Voice will have no conduit with which to reach and touch your readers.
(Just for the record, the same can hold true life’s more pleasant things. Trial, however, seems to sharpen the learning curve.)
Just like children, authors, and their work, mature, growing and changing within their frame of normal. The frames are all different. Some heavy and gilded, some thin strips of salvaged wood. Time can strip the gilding, embellish the salvaged wood, but within the frame, the Voice remains unique.
Thus, I encourage you to reevaluate your normal, the joys, trials, and general messiness that comes with living.
Accept it. Embrace it. Learn from it.
Put it to work.
The vanquished is always at the mercy of the victor.
Posted by Rita Henuber Aug 15 2013, 12:01 am in inspiration, motivation, writer's life
Thoughts on writing from authors I thought you would enjoy.
Set your sights high, the higher the better. Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future but right now. Realize that nothing is too good. Allow absolutely nothing to hamper you or hold you up in any way. ~ Eileen Caddy
If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. ~ Nora Roberts
Keep a diary and one day it’ll keep you. ~Mae West
A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay
When things don’t go your way – change your way. ~ Me
The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie
I think it’s bad to talk about one’s present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension. ~Norman Mailer
If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing. – Benjamin Franklin
Some of us aren’t meant to belong. Some of us have to turn the world upside down and shake the hell out of it until we make our own place in it. ~ Elizabeth Lowell
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth
Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener
Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~ Joy Held
All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
People do not deserve to have good writing, as they are so pleased with bad. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous. ~ Robert Benchley
I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. ~ James Michener
When you get to the point everyone else would quit –keep going. ~ Unknown.
Tell the readers a story. Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences. – Anne McCaffrey
The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.- Anads Nin
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. – Mark Twain
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. ~ Mark Twain
All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences. ~ Somerset Maugham
Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader -not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. ~ E. L. Doctorow
Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.~ Moliere
I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard
When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “one word at a time.” ~ Stephen King
If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. ~ Stephen King
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.~ Ernest Hemingway
It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way. ~ Ernest Hemingway
Rejection is not Fatal ~ Author Unknown
Now go and write.
Forget the guilt, -“Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.”Erma Bombeck
Forget the housework. -“Housework, if it is done properly, can cause brain damage.” Erma Bombeck
Don’t worry about your family.-“No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed.” Erma Bombeck
Enjoy the moment.- “Just think of all those women on the Titanic who said, ‘No thank you’ to desert that night. And for what?!” Erma Bombeck
Please share your favorite quote.
Rita writes sexy stories about Military Heroines. Extraordinary women and the men they love.
Posted by Heather McCollum Aug 1 2013, 1:00 am in creativity, England, inspiration, muse, writing
Hopefully you are all logging on to read this fabulous ruby slippered sisterhood blog because of the constantly helpful tips and inspiration and not because your muse is still snuggled in bed. I must admit that earlier this summer, when I began the third book in my Scottish historical romance series, my muse was rebelling like a werewolf being trussed up in 16th century stays – very ugly. Part of the problem definitely had to do with me just having written the first three chapters of a contemporary YA paranormal for my agent to submit. My internal dialogue included words like “massive” and “epic fail”. Not very Henry Tudor.
When I had to shift immediately into the 16th century, my muse was…not amused -LOL! Luckily I had already purchased plane tickets and had planned a trip to England and Scotland where history permeates the very air you breathe. In between packing and mapping my upcoming route through the countryside, I rewrote the first seventy pages of my 16th century WIP three times and still wasn’t happy with it. Ugh! Surely I could convince my muse to wake up and help me in Britain.
My family and I landed in London after an all-night, no-sleep flight and pushed ourselves to stay awake. So despite standing beside the infamous white tower in the Tower of London and listening to French school children learn about Anne Boleyn being beheaded (Je crois que) right where I stood, my muse wasn’t all that impressed. That might have had something to do with my three exhausted, whining kids (ages 6, 12 and 14) who were also dragging behind me.
The White Tower in London
On to Hampton Court Palace the next day, my oldest daughter and I were able to run off by ourselves to explore Henry VIII’s kitchen and the incredible gardens. Since I had just finished writing my second Highland Hearts novel, which takes place at Hampton Court, this was thrilling. Luckily I hadn’t gotten anything wrong in the details, but just being there, walking the halls, touching the walls, got my heart pounding and my muse raised an inquisitive brow and put down her iPhone.
That night my family and I made it to our rental cottage on a farm in the lovely Coltswold village of South Cerney. It was like stepping into a fairytale with sheep and horses all around the stone cottage covered with climbing roses where it sat on a duck-filled lake. Walking paths led us through woods and meadows, along canals and under ancient-looking arched stone trestles. Neighbors meandered the footpaths with their dogs and trees bent over creating a shaded vault cathedral of leaves.
Heather & Kids under Coltswold bridge
One morning I escaped the family to stroll the footpaths alone. A light breeze blew, sheep bleated in the pastures and the sun shone in a blue sky above the flittering leaves. The beauty and serenity in the peaceful landscape filled me up until I was smiling outright, a silly grin of pure happiness. I roamed the countryside, watching new varieties of birds and studying the wild flowers and branched bushes trained to twine into fences along the road. And as soon as I got back to the cottage, I made some tea and sat down to write.
I wrote about the details of my new setting, this bit of heaven so d
ifferent from my American suburbia with its snaking sidewalks and rushing minivans. I felt full to bursting to write. My muse was whispering in my ear and willing to put on any period costume I wanted.
4-sisters tree in S. Cerney
What I realized then was that it wasn’t so much that I was in England that I could suddenly write. It was that I was filled up again. With what? Hmmm…I’m not sure exactly. Creativity, peace, inner strength and beauty. Whatever it is, we need it as writers. This is what woos our muse into creating our art.
Think about it. When you are stressed out with time lines, with children or parents or siblings pulling at you, with those gray rocks of annoyance or dread like unpaid bills or illness or loss – you become drained, empty. You have nothing to give, no juice within you to ink your pen, to pour into your manuscript. The well dries out and your muse collapses on a dusty, pebbled road with vultures circling overhead. Quite sad.
Going to London didn’t wake up my muse. Touring Hampton Court gave her a drink. But it wasn’t until I walked in the exquisitely quaint landscape of the Coltswolds that my muse revived, drank fully, and smiled with that twinkle in her eye. The great Tower of London had authentic details that I will remember, but in order for me to write I had to refill my creative well.
Sheep Sheep Everywhere!
I spent the next few days site seeing as well as resting under the magical trees and roses at the farm. We saw Bath, Stonehenge, Avebury, the Harry Potter studios, and Cirencester. But it was the cup of tea on the back patio watching the baby ducks and the cranes on the water that made me want to grab my journal and pen.
This is good news for you and for me. Why? Because this means that you don’t have to travel across the ocean to wake up your grumpy or thirsty muse. Yes, it helps to be immersed in the details you will be writing about, but even with the details, if you don’t fill up the well, nothing will come out on paper. And you can fill up the well here at home. You just need to find some peace, breathe, and explore your world until your muse becomes hydrated again. Here are a few ways I hope to fill my well here at home.
- Find new walking paths around my town to take my dog on.
- Visit the rose gardens in the town next to me.
- Visit the art museum and stare at art until my muse either becomes inspired or swoons from boredom.
- Investigate the quaint little shops in my own town while trying not to spend money.
- Find a tea shop that serves tea and scones. There’s got to be one around here.
- Make tea each day in my own tea pot at home and enjoy a biscuit with it.
- Sit on my screened porch and watch the birds swoop or thunderstorms roll in.
- Go camping or hiking or to the beach.
- Lay on a blanket under the oak in my backyard (with heavy clothes on to keep the mosquitos from eating me alive).
- Lay on that same blanket with my hubby watching the stars (nudge, nudge, say no more ; )
The next time you’ve lost touch with your muse, don’t feel like you have to travel the world looking for her. If she’s coughing up dust balls there are ways to revive her right in your own little corner of the globe. Fill yourself up. Only then will you have the creative juice to fill pages with your words.
What are some ways you wake up your muse?
Posted by Anne Marie Becker Jul 22 2013, 12:01 am in Anne Marie Becker, inspiration, music, new release
DEADLY BONDS, the third book in my romantic suspense Mindhunters series released today (hooray!). But rather than blog about the dark, chilling world of serial killers (as much as I enjoy writing villains), I’d like to focus on happier things. After all, despite the ominous vibes, my books are ultimately about hope and resilience. Light over darkness. Rainbows and puppies.
Okay, maybe you won’t find that last one in my books. But even in my characters’ dark world, light prevails and love conquers all.
Posted by Dani Wade Apr 30 2013, 1:34 am in Dani Wade, Finding Her Rhythm, inspiration, muse, romantic suspense, Ruby Release, taking risks, writer's journey
One of the joys of my Indie-publishing endeavors is being able to write a book how it wants to be written– let the characters lead me and follow them without restraints (or into restraints, if that’s where they want to go). My editors have led my Harlequin books in great directions, strengthening them and my skills. But there are just certain things Harlequin books don’t do. So Indie publishing lets me explore different aspects of my creativity.
In this case, I was able to follow the leading of my hero – my rock star hero.
When I first envisionsed Michael Korvello, little voices nagged at me. There’s a long-held rumor that editors don’t want Rock Stars. They aren’t popular enough. But still he hung around – that bad boy, brooding rocker attracted to the anti-thesis of his high profile lifestyle, his nanny.
I just couldn’t get him out of my mind, and before long, despite the push and pull of my first print release and new proposals, I had the full-blown story of a man who was lonely but afraid of revealing his true nature. And a woman so battered by life that trust had been all but obliterated – especially for a first rate performer.
So I chose to follow my characters and discovered a world beneath a world. The performer who wants to be seen and loved as a real man. A family who misses him. A woman who learns to trust him to protect her. A brother who teases and torments him, but who always has his back – on and off the road.
They took me on a journey and I enjoyed every minute! (Well, until I reached revisions.) A journey of a family trying to find each other again, and a man hell bent on using his sexual talents to teach a woman everything that she’s capable of, and everything they can be together.
So let’s celebrate those fun journeys we get to take when we follow wherever our characters lead! Share the last “fun” discovery you made about your book/characters while writing!
One commenter will win a giftie! An Amazon or B&N giftcard for a new journey of discovery.
Posted by Anne Marie Becker Mar 13 2013, 12:01 am in Anne Marie Becker, inspiration, motivation, perseverance
As a suspense author, I enjoy a mind game now and then, and have free rein to use them with my villains and even heroes and heroines. But today, I’m talking about how I use mind games on myself—as a tool to get motivated in my writing.
The “I Don’t Wanna” Complex
Hey, look! It’s already Wednesday. Hump day. The day of the week when I assess how the week is going. Have I encountered challenges that kept me from writing? Are these challenges in my head or external? If they’re in my head, how do I hope to overcome them to turn my week around and make it productive? Or, if I have been productive, how do I keep that momentum going instead of giving in to the temptation to relax and take a break (which frequently leads to difficulty getting back into the writing routine later)?
With spring around the corner, I find myself staring out the window more often, wanting to play instead of work. And I find it easier to say, “I can make up this gap in my word count goal later tonight, after the kids are in bed”… When I’m frequently too tired to write and then tell myself, I’ll do it tomorrow. It’s too easy to make excuses to play when I don’t feel like working.
Getting Over Myself
So how do I get myself (my procrastination and other road blocks) out of the way and get things DONE?
I hear Gollum’s voice saying, “she’s tricksy,” but I wear the badge with pride because I get things done. Whatever it takes, right?
If I’m stalled out, energy-wise, I give myself permission to use 30 minutes on something non-writing (with the caveat that I will then sit down and produce words). I trick myself into believing I’m giving in to my temptation to play, but it actually leads to work. Here are some methods I employ:
- Exercise. Taking a walk outdoors gets the blood pumping to all areas of the body – including the brain. I’ll admit to occasionally dancing around my house with upbeat music playing on Pandora, frequently tuned to the “Pink!” station.
- Brain teasers. Yes, more mind games…of a sort. Engaging in a puzzle (crosswords, Scrabble, and the like), as long as I limit the time I spend, can help open my mind to the potential of doing work that day. It also gets me thinking about words. (DANGER: Beware the time suck! Set a timer for 20 minutes!)
- Attend writer’s meetings, or read or write a blog post on craft. If a writer’s meeting isn’t in the immediate future, I’ll set up a writing sprint online or a one-on-one writing session with a friend who lives in town. Then I’ve got a commitment to keep. (Spending $5 on a coffee drink often encourages me I have to get some major work done to justify the cost!)
- Read the latest RWR or other craft magazine. Seeing what other writers are doing often encourages me to get my head back in the game.
- Read a book! Sometimes this gets me in the mood to write my own. And sometimes reading about other characters makes my own jealous, and they start nitpicking at me until I get back to their story.
- Cattle prod? No, I’m not serious…but, then again, having a timer works in a similar way. If I’m having trouble focusing, I’ll give myself permission to do something else for a few minutes, and set the timer on my iPhone to “prod” me to get back to work.
But what about writing? Once my brain is willing (or sometimes when it is still pouting in the corner but I need it to be willing), there are specific things I do to help me get back into the actual writing part of my day.
- Warm-up exercises. Free-writing for five minutes, catching up on emails, or jotting down notes for future scenes often helps me get my fingers warmed up. I also have a deck of idea cards for writers with prompts designed to get your brain thinking…things like “pick a scene and make your character do the opposite of what you’ve already written” or “tell the scene from another character’s POV.”
- Re-reading the last scene or two. This is almost a “must” for me to get my head back in the game. Besides, rereading helps me regain the energy of the moment I was in when I last wrote. I’ll also go back and reread the last scene in that character’s POV, so that I know what emotional and physical state I left her/him in and can continue from there. (DANGER: I often find myself wanting to edit what I wrote – which is okay if that’s my goal for the day. But if my goal is forward progress, generating more words, I have to stuff my inner critic into its box.)
- Playing what-if with the scene. I do this with troublesome scenes, when I can’t see where the story is going. I once read/heard somewhere that when brainstorming you should list as many possibilities as you can. Throw out the first five or so because they’re often the predictable ones. Go further down your list for an exciting option.
- The old switcheroo. Changing my location (where I write) or medium (what I’m working on – for instance, using pen and notepad versus a computer) sometimes gets the ideas flowing. I’ve always wanted to try a hand-held voice recorder – I think that would come in handy in these circumstances.
- Follow the energy. This is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned. Some days, I’m just not feeling it. I try to go where the energy is flowing that day – to work follow my brain’s natural path instead of going against the flow. This might mean writing a different scene than you’d planned to work on that day, or working on the synopsis or query letter instead of the manuscript. Whatever feels like forward progress is good. And stepping back to look at the global picture often helps me get back into the scene I need to write, and I’ll end up getting even more done than I’d intended. (Tricksy!)
- Set a timer or a low word count goal. Taking off a bite-sized chunk of the daily goal usually gets the ball rolling and tricks me into believing I am productive. Especially when, once my brain gets jump-started, my fingers can’t fly across the keyboard fast enough.
- Reward yourself! Peanut M&Ms work for me. I get five for every twenty minutes I spend at the keyboard. Or a bonus five if I finish a scene. If I’m trying to limit calories, I’ll let myself play online for a few minutes, or watch a segment (until the next commercial break) of The Followers or another favorite show. Choose whatever works for you (and fits your diet or budget)…small rewards can be just as helpful as large ones (which I reserve for finishing a round of edits or finishing a manuscript).
These are just a few of the mind games I play to make myself believe I’m playing when I’m really getting down to work…we won’t even go into the tricks I play on my characters once I’m in the scene and the words start flowing. (*insert maniacal laughter here*)
How about you? Do you have ways you trick yourself into being productive? What mind games do you employ when your brain wants to play instead of work?
Anne Marie is an award-winning author of romantic suspense and publishes her Mindhunters series through Carina Press and Harlequin. Always fascinated by people—inside and out—she earned degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling before becoming a fiction writer. As a stay-at-home mom of three young children, her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and writer.
She writes to reclaim her sanity.
You can find out more about Anne Marie at www.AnneMarieBecker.com.
Posted by Anne Barton Jan 29 2013, 12:00 am in Anne Barton, inspiration, Jane Austen, Ruby Release
Like many romance writers, I’m a huge Jane Austen fangirl. So, to celebrate the release of my debut novel, WHEN SHE WAS WICKED, I thought I’d share ten quotes containing Jane’s timeless wisdom and reveal why her advice still applies in the iPhone age—a mere 200 years after Pride and Prejudice was first published.
Jane on love (and understanding men):
“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” ―Pride and Prejudice
It doesn’t matter if they’re playing Beethoven in the ballroom or Kesha in the club. If you’re going to dance, you need to let go of those inhibitions and (as my dance teacher used to shout at me) “shake what your mama gave you.” This is a certain step toward gaining a gentleman’s attention, which could very well lead to capturing his affections. Or getting free drinks.
Posted by Kate Parker Jan 25 2013, 12:26 am in inspiration, Winter Writing Festival
I’m sure you’ve all heard the song “I hope you dance.” It came back to me forcefully in, of all places, dance class.
I call the class “Line Dancing for Zombies.” While many of our classmates are young and active, we have one lady who is 91 and another in her mid 80s. One of my classmates had a complete knee replacement less than six months ago and is dancing rings around me because I dance like a pregnant water buffalo. A good reason to line dance. It saves on apologies to partners.
Today we had a man join our class who is on portable oxygen. He didn’t know any of the steps; none of us do when we first join. He had the extra weight of the oxygen tank to carry with him as we moved and turned. He shuffled through the class, watching what the rest of us were doing and trying to keep up.
He made it through the class. He had the choice to sit out exercise with his oxygen bottle or make the effort to come in to the YMCA and dance, and he danced. It was his own steps rather than what is choreographed for each piece of music as he tried to figure out what we were doing, but he danced.
We’re two weeks into the Winter Writing Festival. By now the first flush of excitement is over, and the tedious slog of doing what you said you would do every day is wearing you down. Things are coming up in your life. The dust bunnies are multiplying, the kids are coming down with the flu, a new project has come up at work demanding more of your time.
Like the man who had the extra weight of the oxygen bottle and lungs that must have quickly begun to burn from the need to rest, you have a choice. You can sit out putting those words on paper or on the computer screen, or your fingers can dance across the keyboard. I hope you dance.
How is the Winter Writing Festival going for you?
Posted by Dani Wade Jan 8 2013, 1:00 am in craft, inspiration, reading, writer's advice, writer's journey, writer's life
How many times have you stood in a group of writers and heard this:
“I never have time to read anymore.”
“It’s been a year since I’ve read anything besides my own work.”
“I don’t read because (insert reason here). But that’s okay.”
Um, no. It isn’t.
I’ve heard statements like these aplenty through the years and they’ve always made me a little sad. It wasn’t until I found myself in the same boat that I started to examine this phenomenon. There are so many excuses for us, as writers, to not read, and the majority of them boil down to one basic reason: TIME.
But I’ve begun to question: Will our writing/creativity suffer if we don’t read?
Reading for pleasure should be a treasured gift to writers. After all, the majority of us came to writing through reading. But it also allows writers to:
1. Re-experience what its like for a reader to get “lost in a book”. We all have memories of this magical phenomena, but the more distant the recollection, the less the potency. Reaffirm your own wish for your readers by returning to your reading roots.
2. Absorb new techniques – not by “studying/dissecting” the written word, but through effortless osmosis. Just like we did before we ever started writing. Later, after you come out the other side of the story, you can ask yourself why you loved the characters or what kept you turning the page. But relax and let your writer’s eye take knowledge in while your reader’s brain is fully engaged.
3. Doing anything you enjoy, sparking your imagination, refills the creative well that gets drained with every project you invest yourself in. It relaxes you, opens your creativity to possibilities, and generally brings us to that peaceful place where we can create without straining or overburdening ourselves.
4. Being a writer doesn’t mean forsaking those things we enjoy. If we do, then our writing suffers. This quote from NYT bestselling author Linda Howard explains this very well:
The fact is, being a writer doesn’t mean you have no life other than writing, any more than being a schoolteacher means you live in the classroom and do nothing else. Our lives are just like everyone else’s, other than the writing part. We still have dentist appointments, need flu shots, have fender-benders and children (not sure there’s a difference <G>). Those things — normal as they are — are stressful enough without throwing in the added stress of feeling frantic because they’re taking away from our writing time. We still need to enjoy ourselves. We’re driven by some weird internal chemistry, but we need to give ourselves a break.
Life happens to everyone. It’s here for us to live, and we should live it, because otherwise we’ve thrown away the most precious part of our writing. If we give up doing what we enjoy, whether it’s reading or taking long walks or anything else, we’ve given away a precious spark that makes us more human. Yeah, you may write a more technically perfect manuscript if you devote every free hour to it, but if you really live, you’ll be able to write a more vital, human manuscript — and, as a reader, I can tell you that I’d rather read a book where the characters come alive, than one that’s technically perfect but is as limp as uncooked bacon.
That about says it all…don’t you think?
While I know all of this is true, TIME is still an issue. Believe me, as a writer with a full-time day job and a family, I know this is true. So let me share some strategies for fitting reading into a very busy life.
1. Read a little each night before bed or to unwind after work. If you’re the type of reader who can string out a good book, twenty minutes a day would work well for you. Give you a little boost at the end of a long day.
2. Another option for this type of reader is to carry a book in your purse and read while waiting in line, out to eat, etc. Fill those little pockets of time with the yumminess of good characters and thrilling plots.
3. I, unfortunately, can’t read a short time and put an interesting book down. I’m more of a binge reader, so I’ve set up a reward day (or weekends for big projects) when I give myself permission to indulge. Some reward-worthy tasks include finishing a rough draft, after revisions, after completing a writing challenge, or after a set period of strenuous writing. Then I can dip into a new book guilt-free (mostly) and come back to my own writing refreshed.
4. Set up a regular date night – just yourself and your new favorite book. Whether its once a week, every two weeks, or one weekend a month, mark your calendar for a regular reading time as a reminder that its important (and essential to your creative function) to enjoy some downtime.
So as a writer, do you still read? Let’s talk about the whys, the why nots…and how you work reading into your writing schedule.