In the past two or three weeks, I’ve come in contact with nearly a dozen writers and illustrators who are struggling. So this post is part blog, part book pick and suggested reading, and part battle cry for all of my creative friends who have hit the wall and are questioning the pursuit of publishing books.
We are living and operating as artists during a time when we are expected to project a lot of energy outwardly—connecting, marketing, networking. Through the conversations I’ve had with writers in the last month, several of them said they had lost their way, and in all of the cases their energy had been depleted by social media, conferences, and the revolving door of submissions and rejections. As another friend told me today, “I have become a professional student, chasing after classes to inspire me to write. I just need to sit down and write.” We featured Melissa Sweet for our illustrator month, and she spoke of the lessons she learned from E. B. White while writing and illustrating the exquisite book, Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. While E. B. White might have been eccentric in his need for nature, he can teach us about pulling back, sitting with an idea, and letting nature nurture us as our ideas are developed. Any man who spends a year studying spiders has something to teach me about pacing myself. We owe ourselves a break from the fast lane in order to reconnect to our writing. We can only spin like a top for so long before we lose steam, wobble, and topple over.
Instead I say, let’s embrace and find inspiration in life. If I stop and look around, I can find inspiration in all of my day-to-day surroundings. For starters, I am inspired by my daughter’s 99-year-old dance teacher, Georgia Deane, who continues to teach, dance and sing every day. (Here she is performing in Arizona last month.) And then there’s my critique group member who has spent years pulling together a family tome of photos, family trees and stories, poetry, and Ancestry.com details to pass along to her nieces and nephews. When she shared the book Monday night, we were speechless. The detail and care that had gone into creating it could rival any book written. Big publishing house project? Nope. But what a gift. Another friend faces a recurrence of cancer but remains upbeat and continues to draft her most riveting YA fantasy yet, and I can’t wait to read it! I’ve been on all sorts of adventures this summer with my son as he searches for a new home next year—at a university that will embrace all of his loves. It’s taking over a great deal of my “writing time” but I wouldn’t miss this journey for anything. The writing will have to wait.
This is life. We live it. We embrace it. We feel it. We will eventually create from it.
My friend and 24 Carrot co-founder Annie Cronin Romano said in one of our goals meetings last month that she was going to “throw it at the page.” Her wisdom hit me like a slap across the face. I have been struggling with a complete rewrite of a novel, but I was spending an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to control the direction of the writing. I had lost the love of sitting down with a cuppa, my favorite pens, and a pad and writing for the sheer joy of seeing something new—something never written before—on paper. It had been a long time since I had experienced that oneness with a snippet of a thought or story. Long overdue. So despite the fact that I have a meaningful and immediate deadline ahead, I am reeling myself in. I am going to dip in, splash it, mix it, repeat. I will trust that this is the only viable process if I’m going to deliver something fresh and engaging. I will probably miss my deadline but I'm determined to enjoy this process.
Autumn is here. Nature beckons, as do our creative souls. Go back to the basics. Do whatever you need to truly live and retrieve the joy you once knew when you sat down to draw or write. If you live in a place with seasons, take a hike, play in a pile of leaves, drink warm cider. If you live in a place without seasons, go to the beach or bask in the warmth in other ways! If rain drives you inside, buy a box of crayons or a set of watercolor paints (the kind with only eight colors and one brush). And listen to E. B. White’s wisdom. Explore The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic by Michael Sims and The Essays of E. B. White by E. B. White. And definitely don’t miss out on Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet!