I found a candle holder wandering through a market last week, and knew it had a place on my desk as a reminder to keep dreaming, keep setting goals, and keep working.
Happy Friday everyone!
I’ve spent a few weeks in a writing funk. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I sincerely doubt it will be the last. It is an unfortunate fact, but there it is. Sometimes my writing ability can be interrupted by life. I’m still getting my story ideas, but I am losing my inspiration to write them.
It started a few weeks ago, when I was working on getting some critique on the beginning of a story. I went in knowing my own story weaknesses, but feeling like what I was submitting was all right. I left realizing that everyone else saw the same weaknesses I had.
Suddenly I was hit with an absolute knowledge that everything I wrote was crap. Seeing my own problems was fine; I could pretend I was just being paranoid, or maybe giving myself a little tough love. When someone else sees the same problems it means they are actually problems and I should fix them.
Trying to make a go of a creative career is not easy. You have to be sensitive enough to follow your creative path, and express real emotion. You have to open yourself up in a way that feels almost wrong; a part of you is exposed to the world that you would normally keep hidden. You put that part out there, and then allow others to pass judgment in the name of making things better. You have to be raw and place everything out there, yet tough enough to shrug off everything negative. As soft as silk, and yet as tough as nails. I’m not even sure what material out there would come close to that, but I’m sure I am not made from it.
I can’t take the critique without suffering a few scars. Maybe it means in a few years I will be out, or at least in a perpetual state of ‘revising’ before letting anyone read. Hearing negatives hurts, even if it is for my own good. Sometimes, it breaks my confidence down for a little while, and makes it hard to write more. This is my fatal writing flaw, worse than any grammatical or spelling error I will every make. I take the hit, and I will get back up, but I might need a little rest first.
I think the worst of it all, knowing that some of it was true. Many of my own fears of the piece were exactly what was said back to me. I’d feel better if I could laugh and say they were wrong, but they zeroed right in on the target, and sent their shot there. Sure, some of it I will brush off, because I know the purpose of the little facts that were included early on. I know the big picture thoughts behind certain things, and maybe they just missed my point. It’s all right. Other things I will have to change because I know it is for the best of the story.
After spending some time on my pity party is it time to pick myself back up. Just because I made a few mistakes doesn’t mean I should never try again. Every critique is important, as long as I take it as a lesson for future learning. The most important thing is to get back at it, and make something.
I found this graphic on Pinterest a while ago. I have no idea who made it, but I loved it. This happens to me often (thank you internet). Even if I follow links, it doesn’t always take me to the original source. Whoever you are, brilliant person who summed up my current writing experience, thank you!
It is comforting to see I am not the only person who doesn’t feel as though their creative process is working properly for them. I am well aware I am currently in the green/yellow/orange section, with my red section long behind me and the blue somewhere between grunt work and lack of productivity.
See, I have my idea. The story is there, and I have even mapped it out, giving me a directions from where I am to where I need to be. I just can’t seem to get there. I can’t decide if I am a driver who lost their keys and is therefore searching in vain for their transport method, or just a hamster on the little wheel, spinning but not getting anywhere.
So, I kill time, waiting for the inspiration to come back just enough to get me through the work portion of my day. In the meantime, I cruise the internet. I call it ‘fact checking’ but lets be honest, random internet videos and gossip pages are usually not related to any work I need to do.
We won’t talk about the binge eating. Seriously, don’t ask about the brownies. I’m not sure what happened to them, or if they were or were not delicious. (Ok, they were amazing.)
My only true defense is I don’t actually spend most of my days napping. Not always for lack of trying, but I am not a good napper. I don’t sleep well during the day.
So when does the inspiration and work come in? What brings on the ‘aha!’ moment that sends me charging to my keyboard, intent on typing away for the rest of the day? How can I make that happen more often?
I see writers who churn out book after book, some in as little time as one month writing time, and not just in November. Assuming that is an average length adult novel, of approximately 70,000 words, that is around 2300 words written everyday. At 300 words per page, you are clocking in just under eight pages a day. Yesterday I wrote three paragraphs. Yes, they were three I was proud of, but at three paragraphs a day, or around a page, it could take me close to a year to finish the novel (233 days for approximately 70,000 words).
Looking at the numbers, it begins to feel like I will never finish anything. I mean, this is just averages. I have days when I finish more than the one page. But there are also days when I only get a few words, or even nothing written. There are days when I work hard, churning out page after page, only to delete them all when I realize it wasn’t even fit to fertilize my garden. Some days I am just putting in the work, and other days I feel truly inspired.
When it all comes together, the work and the inspiration in the same moment, it is beautiful. The stars align, the planet spins just right, and all is right with my novel. It is more than inspiration, it is a magic I am honored to be even a small part of. I write late into the night, forgetting what time it is, everything I need to do. As the pages fly by I forget where I am, and even who I am. I’m no longer the boring person waiting for something amazing to happen. I am in a bigger world, a better world, and I don’t want to come back.
Eventually the moment passes, and I am back to being me. I know it will come back, but until that happens, I fill my time. I might do a little research. I think I can improve on that boxed brownie mix, if I can only find that posting on Pintrest again. And maybe a little nap, just while they bake.
Sometimes you have to sit back and ponder questions that have no real answer.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Why can’t I come up with an example that doesn’t involve a chicken?
And of course what will win out, nature or nurture?
The age old debate of nature vs. nurture is simple enough in concept. What will matter most in how a person turns out, their DNA or how they are raised? For example, a serial killer has baby who is raised by incredibly sweet, kind, giving people. Will the child still be plagued by a murderous nature, or will they be good, just like those who raised them?
The answer isn’t simple, because people aren’t simple. If the serial killer had a genetic condition that effects the mind and can be passed onto the child, maybe the child will have the same outcome. Of course, maybe they will never know what could have been, and spend their life working with charity. A case can be made either way using examples of real people, so the answer may never be determined completely.
I keep thinking about my own personal nature vs. nurture.
No, I am not related to a serial killer. But I do believe in a natural talent.
There are those in this world who are just amazing from the beginning, with no special training. The singers who can belt out a song with perfect pitch and no voice training. The runner who has strong lungs and perfect form from their first day of training. The artist who has perfect lines with no art classes. The storyteller who can weave a tale that will draw you in with nothing more than a simple what if moment.
Everyone has met someone who is just good at what they do. Maybe they have trained, and worked hard, but you know it kind of doesn’t matter. I could do everything Kara Goucher or Shalane Flanagan do, but that doesn’t mean I will be setting any race records. I honestly believe it is because they have something I don’t when it comes to running. I don’t know exactly what it is; maybe it is the drive, the determination, the physical proportions of legs, body fat, muscle, lung capacity and coordination. Whatever it is, they have the ability in their nature.
This brings my greatest fear for my writing. Do I have the talent in my nature? Beyond the story ideas, or the luck to find the right agents, publishers, and audience at just the right time, do I have the natural ability to write?
What if I just don’t have what it takes to write a good story?
Sometimes I think I do; most often I am happy with my first draft of everything I write, and usually only feel the need to make minor corrections. That doesn’t necessarily mean I am good of course. It just might mean I don’t see the mistakes I need to fix.
How can you know if you are naturally talented at something? Can you do anything to change it if you are not? Can you change your nature and change yourself?
Just as they cannot definitively end the nature vs. nurture debate in raising children, I cannot easily put my own fears to rest. The truth is, I honestly believe in natural talent. I know it is there, and everyone has theirs, even if they don’t use it. I know there are people who can write much better than I can, and those who are much worse. I might just be a middle of the pack writer; nothing remarkable, but not burning holes in the minds of readers due to my excessive mistakes in writing. That’s not enough for me though.
I know there are things I might not be able to change, but that doesn’t mean I need to give up.
I’m afraid that I was not born with the talent, but I refuse to let that fear rule me. Instead, I am working to nurture my nature. I have the desire, and I can learn the rest. So I study what I can, read everything, and write everyday. I may never have the natural talent, or I might make a natural talent grow. Either way, I will get where I want to be, because I refuse to stand in my own way.
There are many days in life when I feel overwhelmed by the tasks before me. Sometimes it is from a long to do list, other times it is the result of feeling the one task before me in in fact impossible. I slowly chip away at the end goal, feeling as though my only progression is in fact backwards. I melt into a puddle of self pity, knowing I will never do what I need to, what I want to, or what I have to do.
These are the moments when I need a little perspective.
The truth is we cannot know the path we will take until we have completed the journey. Sure, we can map it out and make a plan before we head out the door, but there is no way to know for certain how it will go. There might be bumps in the road, or complete detours along the way that we cannot possible predict.
When this happens I know I need to sit back, relax, and believe that I will get where I need to be.
This is not a talent of mine. I’m much better at worrying, thinking of everything that might go wrong, and anticipating things falling apart.
Eventually, I become so certain things are going to fall apart, I make it happen. I stop trying. I give up the fight, and accept that I will not get where I want to be. I not only let myself fail, I become the sole reason it happens.
In an effort to work on my perspective on life, I have made myself a little reminder.
It’s just a few words, written in a plain scarf, but it serves as a powerful reminder to me when things are difficult. If I can hurdle through space and not even notice, I can accomplish so much more.
Normally today would be taken off from the blog, but I have a streak of visits going and I feel as though I must do what I can to keep it from being broken.
I am also, coincidentally enough, avoiding cleaning my house and writing a paper for school. Right now, I am trying to imagine that much like the computer, the chair, and my own person are mostly not there, my to do list, anxiety, and all other problems are also not there.
Ahh. Scientifically supported denial.
Alright, normally I avoid the so-called ‘potty’ language, but sometimes when you find something online that expresses your feelings you can’t always be picky.
I ran across this on Pinterest one day, without any context to say who gave the quote. It instantly made me a little happier, and was something I had to share with an older brother. (Not this one, another one who happens to be an amazing artist. Sharing random inspirations, as well as Batman and Benedict Cumberbatch pictures, is one of the strange ways we keep in touch.)
Writing, art, fashion, photography; all of thess are, at the core, creative pursuits. They begin with someone who has an idea, or a vision. You see something in the world, the way it is, or the way it could be. Shockingly, not everyone sees it as easily as you do. So, you work to capture it somehow, taking it and sharing it with the world.
But sharing doesn’t pay the bills.
There is a lot of money to be made in sharing artistic vision. People are fascinated with the way others see the world, and they want to be a part of it. When you find just the right market for your creativity, it can become not only your passion, but your job.
It can be easy to get caught up in the business side of creativity.
As soon as you make the shift from hobby to business, you have an obligation to create product. Not only product, but product that sells. We can stay true to ourselves and always create only what we want, but lets be honest, someone needs to like our work for us to make any money. Even if we stand by the money doesn’t matter ideals, eating does matter.
So you make little changes. You write for the genre that sells, shaping your story to the market. You work a few commissioned art pieces, painting what people want. You start making alterations for other people instead of sewing your own designs. You photograph a family portrait session.
You feel like a sell out.
And people notice. You might be changing your work to sell better, but eventually it will catch up with you. The passion that once drove you will disappear, because you are no longer working from your soul. You are no longer sharing your creativity; you are working a boring job like everyone else. Without your passion, your creative works might as well be mad libs or paint by numbers. Sure, they are amusing, but it is hardly great art.
Choosing a life like this, you have to constantly take a moment and refuel your creative soul. Over spring break I have kept busy with my kids. My normal writing/homework/cleaning/workout schedule has gone to pot. It is wonderful to have this time with my children, but I am also anxious to get back to my writing.
I love writing, not because I make loads of money doing it (which, starting out, I don’t). When I am writing for me, telling the story that is screaming from within me to get out, I feel a release. Those are the stories that I feel most passionate about, the stories that come from my soul. And I hope that people will dig that.
Every now and then I sit at my keyboard, my mind rolling around the story, trying to find the right words to bring it to life. Half of my words aren’t quite right, and the other half are completely wrong. Those days I’m not writing anything worth reading.
This week has been one of those times. Having my kids home changes my focus and concentration. I’m no longer having hours of uninterrupted time to write. I’m spending time with my kids, as I should be.
So today I went out to do something worth writing. I took my daughters on a train to Antwerp, for a visit to the zoo and the aquarium. We looked at the graffiti along the train route, which is shockingly impressive considering they are using spray paint. We wandered through, enjoying the embarrassment of my twelve year old as she witnessed mating day in the reptile house. We cruised through to the constant chant of “Just keep swimming” as we saw multiple Dory fish.
It was a peaceful, relaxing, and pleasant day.
I’m not sure it was technically something worth writing about, but it was the kind of day that makes it possible to return to the keyboard, refreshed, and ready to tell a story again.
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