A while back, I used to do a thing on Mondays called Not Me Monday. It was sort of my way of sharing things that I’d read or discovered over the course of a given week. I fell off the wagon with this for some reason, but I always enjoyed doing Mondays so, I thought I’d bring it back.
I have so many interesting friends that do really unique things. I thought it would be fun to share them with my blog friends too. Here is my first one. Please meet my friend Elsa.
Elsa is a mom, she works full-time as a Development Director for a local non-profit, oh and in her free time she is an author. Here is a little bit on how Elsa finds her inspiration to write – as written in her own words:
Amy, thanks so much for having me on your blog!
When I’m thinking about a story, what usually pops into my head first is a situation or circumstance (such as: a dog and woman switch bodies, like in Dog Days.) Once I think up a situation that seems fun to me, it’s really hard to not sit down right away and start writing – even though I have no idea what happens next! I practically have to sit on my hands and get myself to wait until I have the whole story planned out before I get started. Otherwise, I’m too likely to start writing….and end up writing myself into a corner. I’ve done it before, so this is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. Plan first, write second, Elsa! The good thing about this is that when it’s finally time to start writing, I’m pretty excited to get rolling.
When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a writer. I wrote a couple of (very short) books, all illustrated, all in the Secret Garden/Little Princess vein. Girls enduring hardship! Wearing pretty dresses! But I never really believed that being a writer was a plausible career. It seemed like something only a few very lucky people got to do, people who lived far away and were much smarter than I was. So I went to college and didn’t think about writing at all until I was cleaning out my childhood room just before the Peace Corps. I found a time capsule I’d made at about age 10, and on it I wrote that I wanted to be a writer or a teacher when I grew up. By that point I knew I wasn’t going to be a teacher….but why not a writer? Why not, really?
It was the perfect time to have such a thought planted in my brain, since Peace Corps provided a lot of long, quiet evenings with plenty of time for scribbling. The only problem was that we didn’t have electricity, so no computer and no electric light. But I got a few (truly awful) short novels written there, and I came home with the new knowledge that I had the perseverance to write a whole book. That was a big hurdle to overcome, since before that I hadn’t really believed I could do it.
Flash forward to today…. At this point, I’ve written a lot of manuscripts, a few of which have been published, which is incredibly exciting. I feel so lucky to have found publishers that are willing to take a chance on my stories. And I’m so glad I haven’t given up writing, even when it seemed like no one would ever publish anything! That, by the way, is the key lesson for every writer. If you enjoy it, then do it and keep doing it, no matter what. It’s good for your soul, so there’s no reason to stop….and your biggest success may come right after your biggest disappointment.
Since I have a job and a little boy, my only writing time these days is in the evenings. Just about every night I struggle to get myself to sit down at the computer. After a full day at work, it’s the last thing I want to do. But I met with a great life coach once who suggested that I think about how happy I feel after I’m done writing and use that as a motivator to get going. I do find that helpful, especially since I really enjoy writing once I get into the story – it’s just getting started that’s tough. Once I have my head back in it, things start to flow and I get into that wonderful space of living right in the story. I love your question about being creative on demand, because I think about that quite a bit. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there’s no point in worrying about creativity (or lack of it) in advance. It doesn’t do any good to fret about whether you’ll be able to be funny in the scene you’re about to write, or if you’ll be able to summon your character’s voice when you’re doing a re-write, even when it’s been four months since you wrote the original manuscript. Worrying doesn’t help any. It’s much better to trust yourself. Just believe that jokes will come to you when they fit into the story. The character’s voice will come flooding back. Trust that – in the moment – you’ll rise to the occasion. Because you will. I find this line of thought pretty empowering. Also, I think anything that cuts down on worry is excellent!
Along those lines, a great piece of writing advice I once read was to never save anything when you’re writing. Don’t hold a clever line back to use next time. Don’t save a great scene or fun character for your next book. Use them! There’s no point in saving things, because you won’t remember to use them anyway. And, if you empty your head (or your “well”) completely, it will fill back up with new ideas and thoughts and characters, just like magic. I love that advice because, again, it’s about trusting yourself. It’s easy to have doubts as a writer, so anything you can do to practice trust is a good thing.
If you know someone who has a great story to tell, send them my way! I’d love to talk with them and share their story with others.
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