Showing posts with label Words. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Words. Show all posts

Monday, January 18, 2016

Learning to Embrace the Story

For the last couple of years, I've seen a trend on social media. Come January, people start posting their "word" for the year. Something that speaks to them, to what they want out of the shiny, clean slate that is a brand new calendar. A word of encouragement; one that points toward a goal. A hope. An area of growth.

I like this idea. But then again, I'm a fan of words in general.

After pondering for a couple of weeks, I think I've landed on my 2016 word of the year...

Embrace.

            em•brace  verb
            1. to accept (something or someone) readily or gladly
            2. to use (an opportunity) eagerly

I especially love how this word applies to both my life in general...

Embrace the messy house. I have two children. And a life. Mess comes with the territory.
Embrace simplicity. Contentment is the new black.
Embrace the present. There are memories to be made now. The future can wait its turn.

...and to my writing career...

Embrace the wait. The perfect thing later is a lot better than the wrong thing now. 
Embrace the rejections. That agent/editor/publisher wasn't the right one. But the next one could be.
Embrace who I am as an author. Focus on sharing a story, not selling a book.

That last one is the hardest (at least for me). I think one of the most sought after - and most feared - words in the writing world is "marketable." If you're a writer you've probably heard people say, "Don't write for the market! Write the story only you can tell!" And if you've ever been told that your book is lovely but not marketable enough, you've probably felt the strong desire to pummel those people with the largest, heaviest book you can get your hands on. (I keep a nice, fat hardcover copy of War and Peace in my living room for just such occasions.) 

(Just Kidding.) 


(Or am I?)

I realized recently, as I've been exploring ideas for new writing projects and revisiting old ones, that I've been trying to shove myself into the elusive box of marketability. And it's sapped a lot of the joy I once felt at the prospect of putting new words on paper. It's a difficult balance, wanting to write the story that brings you joy, but also wanting it to bring you an agent and a book deal. And while I think writing with the awareness of what makes a book marketable is a good thing, writing solely with the intention of creating a sellable story is a recipe for disaster. Writing is like cooking: the secret spice is love. It's the difference between a bland TV dinner and a spicy home cooked meal. It's the difference between a good book and a great one. 

To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg

That's not to say that the story you're passionate about comes easy. Even things you love can make you want to pull your hair out (every mother in the world knows this). But it's worth every single edit. Every single rewrite. Every single moment of questioning your sanity.

I read a story this week, after the passing of Alan Rickman, that really drove this point home for me. Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films, shared a story on her Facebook page of an interaction she had with Alan at a charity dinner a few years after the filming of the HP movies. At the time, Evanna says, she "was stressing about the pressure I felt to already be a successful actress and that I'd run out of time to make mistakes." Then she goes on to share Alan's advice...

"As an actress, already having to lie about my age at 24, it seems mad that Alan only found his vocation and began his acting journey at 26 and turned out to be…Alan Rickman. But when I told him that I was worried if I didn't figure myself out quickly I would miss the most important opportunities and never get them back, he simply told me that I was focusing on the wrong thing. He said not to worry about getting 'there' and instead to focus on feeding my soul and following my heart from place to place."

As I move into this new year, I want to embrace the stories that are tugging at my heart. The ones I can't stop thinking about. The ones that bring a smile to my face and make me eager to take up my pen again...and again...and again...even when it's hard. 

Because after all, those stories are the reason why I started writing in the first place. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

On Unicorns, Rainbows, and Rest


I came across this photo in my Facebook feed last week (courtesy of The Institute of Children's Literature), and I couldn't help but breath a giant sigh of relief. Which was immediately followed by a torrent of doubt. But so many other people say you have to work through it. Write every day even if it sucks. Write yourself out of writer's block! Don't stop, no matter what!

For weeks I felt like I was beating my head against a wall with my current work-in-progress. I just couldn't seem to get back to that beautiful place of writerly bliss. You know, the place where I sit down and look at the blank screen and suddenly the story begins to flow effortlessly and the words stack up as my fingers fly across the keyboard like a unicorn galloping across a rainbow on the wings of inspiration.

Okay, in reality maybe there's not quite so many rainbows and unicorns, but you get what I'm saying.

I was forcing myself to write, waffling between two ideas--both with potential--but coming out with exactly what the above quote describes: uninspired dreck. The more I wrote, the more frustrated I became, and the more I fell into an "I love you but I don't like you right now" relationship with both of my stories. So, with few other options and still feeling like I was breaking some sort of set-in-stone, thou-shalt-not-stop-writing rule, I took the above advice and stepped away. I didn't touch my laptop for several days in a row, worked on other creative projects that didn't involve writing, and curled up for some much needed reading therapy. I cleared the clutter from my word-mired mind and made room for inspiration to return from its vacation.

And it did.

After a week, I began to feel the itch to take up my pen. And as of today, I finally have a solid outline for my book and am ready to press forward. 

Also, my house is freakishly clean.

I learned a couple things from this little exercise. One: At some point I think you have to release yourself from the notion that there's a perfect formula for anything. Otherwise, you'll waste valuable time trying to follow other people's strategies. Everyone's process is different, and that's okay. Maybe your path to inspiration looks like plowing forward now and straightening your plot lines later. Maybe it looks like taking a long walk or watching your favorite comedy. Maybe it looks like closing the laptop (or notebook) and only writing to jot down notes as they come to you. Whatever works for you, go forth and do without guilt.

Two: I think it's important to remember there's a difference between quitting and resting. Quitting is a result of fear. Resting is a result of movement. It's a natural and necessary part of the cycle: work, recharge, work, recharge. 

No matter what your strategy is for getting unstuck, I think it would benefit all of us to give ourselves permission to rest. You can't go forever without burning out. Just because you take a break, doesn't mean you're giving up--it means you're filling up. And that's not just okay, it's good.

What about you? What strategy works for you when it comes to tackling creative block? What refills your cup of inspiration? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, July 8, 2013

(Moving) Picture Quote Monday

For this week's picture quote, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of a one or two-sentence quote, I chose one of my favorite passages from Jon Acuff's NYT Bestseller, START. Luckily, I have a husband who's really good at making pretty awesome videos. My graphics + his editing/production talents = one moving picture quote.


I highly recommend picking up this book. Read my review for all the reasons why.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Beauty}

I came across this poem by G.A. Sala in my 1942 edition of Popular Quotations For All Uses and fell in love with it. Sometimes beauty is found in words, and that is one of my favorite things about writing.