Monthly Archive: March 2014

On Inspiration

Gatsbyquote

As writers we find inspiration in all sorts of places. From our dreams. From situations we face or faced in real life. From eavesdropping on conversations (come on, you do it too). From newspaper articles. Sometimes when you least expect it. Often when you’re not looking. Occasionally when you’re scrambling to find a pen to write it down before it disappears.

I used to think I was no good at conjuring up new ideas. I once complained to my mom that I wasn’t an “idea person.” I felt stunted and not the least bit creative. Now I know differently. I was just waiting, expecting a brilliant notion to smack me in the head, and it wasn’t going to happen that way. Now I know that ideas will only come if you’re open to finding inspiration anywhere and everywhere. And once you open the door to inspiration, it makes itself at home. You’re not going to get anywhere just waiting for something to happen. Inspiration won’t just come and knock– you have to let it in. It’s the same with writing and everything else in life.

This quote is one of my all-time favorites, from one of my all-time favorite books, The Great Gatsby.

They were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.

I guess it could mean a lot of different things. To me it means that the world is full of layers. What you see on the surface gives way to so many other dimensions, if you know where to look and trust yourself to look there. On the bottom, holding everything up like a shelf, is imagination. Whimsy. Creativity. And inspiration. Everything that we seek as writers, everything we need to bring stories to life. Sometimes it’s buried underneath day jobs, bills to pay, morning traffic, monotony. Sometimes the minutiae of everyday life. It’s easy for inspiration to be covered in all that other stuff. But as writers, our job is to peel away the layers and go there.

And once we do, we always know how to find our way back.

Throwback Thursday: My Checkerboard

Magazine shoot in Greece.

Magazine shoot in Greece.

I once had a university advisor describe my academic trajectory as a “checkerboard.” All over the place. Interrupted. Hard to follow. The opposite of linear.

This got me thinking about writing, and how all writers have a different path too. Some people get an agent with their first book. Others write several books until one is the perfect fit. Some decide to self-publish. It’s easy to compare ourselves to other writers and wish we had what they had. It’s easy to get disheartened about rejections. But everybody is different. Everybody has their own way, whether it be a straight line or a squiggly line or a checkerboard. And no way is perfect, even though it might look like that from the outside.

I started university a year early, mostly because I couldn’t wait to get out of high school.  I thought I would get an Honors degree, followed by some kind of Masters. Then modeling happened, and I had a decision to make: stay on my academic path or jump way off it.

I jumped. I stopped university two credits shy of a degree for the chance to model in Tokyo. School would always be there, but that opportunity wouldn’t. After Tokyo I didn’t go back to school. I went to Athens, and after Athens, Paris. My friends back home were cramming for exams, going to parties, figuring out what they wanted to do with their lives. I was running around to castings and photo shoots and trying to navigate the Metro lines in Tokyo (update: never did). But when I came home from Paris and decided I missed school and wanted to go back, it was difficult finding traction. I didn’t know what to major in. I questioned the worth of classes previously taken. I was confused. I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. There were moments I wondered what my life would be like if I hadn’t deviated from my path. Everything would be so much easier linear.

Magazine shoot.

Magazine shoot.

But I’m grateful for my checkerboard, especially now. Modeling has been a huge part of my life and has taught me things I could never learn in a classroom. I learned how to handle rejection and criticism. Models have to have thick skin– you go to so many castings each day, and most of them are for jobs you’re not going to get. You learn how to celebrate the ones you do get and don’t sweat the ones you don’t. You make friends and celebrate their successes, and they celebrate yours. I have done my best to apply this attitude to the business of trying to get published. My road might not look the same as someone else’s, and that’s okay.

Because in the end, I really do believe things work out how they are supposed to. Nobody’s path is completely straight. We all have decisions to make and bumps in the road. We all have deviations and setbacks. The challenge is seeing them for the good, and appreciating the change they evoke within us. The challenge is learning to love our checkerboards for what they are– the roadmaps to our lives.

Pantser Problems: Stuck In The Middle

I knew this time would come, sooner or later, with my latest WIP. That annoying question that presents itself as a roadblock, stopping you from moving on. A question in the form of three little words.

What happens next?

This WIP sprang from my head quickly and I hit the 25K mark in less than a week. Things were going great and the words were flowing. I was loving the honeymoon phase, where I felt like everything was coming together exactly how I wanted it to. But a couple days ago, the words dried up. Hitting 30K felt a bit like climbing a steep hill and getting tired and not being able to see the top. I slowed down. I didn’t know where to take the plot. It was like the characters were just standing there, waiting for me to give them direction, and meanwhile I was waiting for them to just do something, but they weren’t having it.

I think I know where I want the story to go– I’m just not sure how to get there.

Maybe it’s the tone of the WIP weighing on me. It’s more subdued and less humorous than the way I normally write. The whole tone of the MS is darker. It’s all about the weight of a secret, and each character has his or her share. My MC isn’t snarky or sarcastic. She’s unhappy and lonely but still hopeful. It’s a challenge to write, but I knew I wanted to write this MS– and had to– because the idea just wouldn’t get out of my head. And I think you have to really love an idea to spend a whole book on it.

The challenge I’m facing now is writing through the unknown, even though I can’t see the top of that hill. I need to have faith that everything will unfold as long as I keep writing. I always feel like the moments where you aren’t sure what to say but your fingers start typing it out anyway are the most fulfilling moments as a writer. I live for those moments where I can think, aha! This makes perfect sense. What was I so worried about?

So I’m going to keep writing and keep grasping for those stubborn words until they flow again. I’m adopting Dory’s famous refrain from Finding Nemo as my mantra. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” Eventually the surface will be there and things will make sense again.

To everyone else working on a WIP, happy writing, and I hope the words flow freely! If they’re not now, they will again. And for those of you revising– you have already created something amazing and are just refining it, making it shine. No matter what stage you’re at– starting a new MS, rewriting an old one, or stuck somewhere in the awkward middle with me– we’re creating something, and that we can all be proud of.

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