Friday felt a lot Monday for us this week which has the potential to completely throw off even the most seasoned mama. I woke around 5am to a child in our bed (they’re doing this really fun thing where they have been taking turns making sure I don’t get a full, uninterrupted nights rest for a good 2 weeks now) and no electricity. I see a text from my neighbor informing me hers is out too, she didn’t want me to freak out and this is why I love my neighbors. By the time we need to get to school… it would have JUST turned back on. Nice. Luckily, a major perk of staying home is that I don’t have to look presentable if I don’t want to and we have a gas stove top… breakfast was served, teeth were brushed, children were dressed in the most primitive ways and we pressed on!
I spent the better part of the last 72 hours avoiding my manuscript because – despite knowing exactly what’s going to happen – I just cannot get my brain to construct the chapters. I can’t find the tunnel from one scene to the next, how I want certain relationships to develop or how much I want in a chapter versus having it stand on its own. I’ll work it out eventually but I usually find that when I do something else creative, it helps to clear my thoughts. I love crafting and I normally do it this time of year because I have an excuse…
I’ve done a few things around our house for “everyday” decor – but there’s just something about a Fall wreath. I got some enablers on the bandwagon who asked me to make them one as well, so I was able to avoid avoid avoid some more and put together a little something for my friends. I jot notes throughout the day in hopes that something will spark and I can get the next chapter churned out but until then, I will find any way to do anything else.
That’s the part about writing that can be frustrating. This being my third novel, I have higher expectations for myself and having hired an editor for The Quiet Ones, I now have better information and tools. Now, I know what I do that can confuse the reader or knowing when to have a little aside versus making that a chapter for itself. I’ve also learned that forcing myself to stare at a blank page isn’t going to make the words come, but if I turn up my music and make a wreath, or paint a dresser or make some napkin rings – I will still feel as if I’ve gotten out the creativity that my body craves and it helps me not to feel annoyed with myself that I can’t decide what this specific character’s name will be!
A lot of my writing inspiration comes from things I see, sometimes a song will do it – not even the lyrics, but a good beat that strikes a nerve for me can launch an entire chapter just from the way it makes a picture in my mind. Love Her Madly by The Doors inspired my entire book We All Fall Down! Driving through and seeing the house I grew up in made me completely change the setting of The Quiet Ones to Houston and I had been stuck on that one for about a month. Once I made that seemingly small tweak, I finished within the following 3 months.
My morning runs always go past this little coulee and the way the sun peaked through the fog a few weeks ago, that inspired one of the chapters in the one I’m working on now. It’s important to constantly keep your mind open and aware as a creative person. There is inspiration EVERYWHERE and it’s a gift. E. Lockhart said that writing is not a talent, and she was right. Anyone can pick up a pen and paper, a typewriter or a laptop and write a story – what sets apart from a good storyteller to a not-so-good one is how engaging we can be with the reader. It’s not necessarily about what we like, but how we can get someone else to connect to our words. How we can get them to feel the scene, the emotion, the honestly, the gut-wrenching heartache.
I was watching an author’s instagram story the other day (Rea Frey who wrote Not Her Daughter – AMAZING book so go read it) and she explained how your book is not your “baby” – it’s a product and we need to emotionally detach from it to make it the best possible product we can. This is not new information but it’s valuable for anyone who has a “product” they’re trying to sell. Of course my novels are precious to me. Anytime I have someone reading over a section or when people were reading my first book, I feel like I’m holding my breath until I get their feedback. Before my book signings I was so anxious that I was becoming physically ill (the power of your own mind, huh?) It’s painfully difficult to put so much of yourself into your work and just have to hope that it’s received well.
I am finally past the point in which I cry with every rejection email. I’ve gotten so many at this point that I expect them, which sounds bad but it’s just how I prepare myself. I would rather feel that excitement and joy when I finally do find an agent than wallow when I get a “No”.
I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last.
Wherever you are in your own journey, find your joy. Find your passion. My passion is writing but I can’t weigh all of my self-worth on a scale that is relatively measured. I am a better writer when I am not obsessing over it. So, after surviving our back-to-school week, first day of dance, half my house sick and a double dose of writer’s block… I will read, craft, bake and wine!