I love learning. School learning, book learning, workshops, hand-me-down knowledge, if you're teaching something I'm passionate about, the loading dock in my brain is eager to receive it. Studying craft is vitally important to developing my art and no matter how accomplished I get, I never want to stop growing.
But all that learning can interfere with the creative process, especially if you're a perfectionist like me. When the voices in your head won't let you write a sentence without nagging . . .
Do you really need that adjective?
Shouldn't there be a comma there?
You're using the word just again?
When you doubt the book before the first draft of the first chapter is written . . .
Hasn't this story already been penned by someone who did it brilliantly?
My version will never live up to theirs.
When messages about syntax, character arcs and pacing interfere with the creative stream, it's time to pack all that learning in a box and shove it behind a locked door in your brain.
I've been reading books on writing by James Scott Bell (yes, yes, more learning). He talks about the single most powerful element in good fiction being the joy the writer brings to telling the story. That jolted my artistic heart. I thought about all the books I love, about how from the first word, I feel I'm sitting with a powerful storyteller. Their joy in writing that tale sings from the pages.
After reading Bell's words, memories rose of getting so lost while drawing or painting, the world around me disappeared and I'd lose track of time. The first couple years of writing, my stories came like that. Creativity erupted whenever a quiet moment occurred and was stoppered only long enough to take care of life. Then I learned HOW TO WRITE and HOW MUCH I DIDN'T KNOW. All that learning slowly smothered my creativity.
So my one and only new year's resolution is to rediscover the joy in my art. It's not easy shutting out lessons once you've learned them. But I'm hoping to do that and if you're feeling stifled, I encourage you to do the same. You can invite those critical voices back when you finish the first draft. They'll be more than happy to help you polish and shine. That's the best part about learning, it's there when you need it.
For Christmas, Teddie, the much adored leader of my critique group, The Skyway Writers, gave each member a beautiful, red-beaded bracelet. Now, I wear it every time I write. It makes me feel connected to my talented peers as I sit at my lonely desk, trying to find the right words to tell a story only I can tell. I love starting the year with a positive new tradition.
I announced at the end of last month that I planned to steer this blog in a new direction. My focus will be encouraging teen readers, writers and artists. There's no better way to start than by celebrating great books. This week, one of my favorite authors, Kate DiCamillo, won the John Newbery award for the second time with her latest book, Flora and Ulysses. Have you read it? I haven't and I'm eager to get my hands on it. I've loved all her other books so I know what to expect. That's the thing about favorite authors. They don't disappoint.
Is it really three days into 2012 already? Time is so sneaky. I meant to make resolutions but somehow they haven't solidified. Author, Julianna Baggott shared her enlightened goals on her blog, Baggott, Asher, and Bode . One of her resoultions was to revisit her vows every week and renew them. I don't think I'm disciplined enough to do that. I don't even like to look back at year's end to examine how many I achieved.
2011 battered the world. Oppressed nations erupted, Mother Nature attacked, and here in the U.S., discontent grew in the downtrodden masses. As the presidential election looms, candidates point fingers, fueling hate and further splintering a government that badly needs to unite. Despite the turmoil, I sense optimism for this new year. Is it just lingering holiday euphoria? Or upbeat predictions tossed from experts on TV? I hope not.
My writing suffered serious setbacks last year. Two novels stalled, resisting my best efforts to revive them. Three picture book projects await art and the artist in me is AWOL. I've always worked through dry spells in my art and writing with positive results, until now. By the end of 2011, I was feeling pretty desperate, so I could definitely use hope. My budget allows for no writing education or motivational conferences this year. But I have supportive friends and family, some of them writers who understand this process. And there's already a bright dot on the calender, my first published story, due in Highlights, May 2012. I'll look for inspiration where I can find it, including books . . . thank you, God for libraries! Maybe my first resloution will be learning to trust the dry spell will end.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Baggott, Asher & Bode
Rear in Gear
Kate DiCamillo on Writing