Posted in For Writers, On Writing, Writing

Blogging and Creativity

I’ve been a lousy blogger lately. My infrequent post have become a source of personal anxiety lately – the kind that keeps me awake during the hours my brain and body should be at rest. Because I don’t like being tired, I dug deeper to figure out why this blog has given me fits lately. Two reasons emerged.

Career-wise, I’m in a bit of a lull. I’ve been writing, but my finished manuscripts are on submission. For the last 18 months, I’ve been honing my pitch and query letter, writing new versions in hopes that one will capture the interest of an editor or agent. Since last July, I’ve spent about ten hours each week researching agents and publishing houses, with the occasional foray into self-publishing options. That is more time than I spent on weekly blog posts back when I posted more regularly. Each new project that arises competes for time with my other responsibilities. Until I have a good reason to blog more, such as more interaction on my posts, I have found blogging less worthy of my time than other aspects of my career.

More than time, the bigger reason for my decreased blogging is the creative suck it generates. A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Windy City RWA conference featuring Barbara Samuel. She spoke at length about nurturing creativity and replenishing the “creative well.” Minnesota had a mild winter, so I only had one opportunity to refill the well through snow-shoeing. At the same time, I encountered more drains. Tweaking my query causes a few words to trickle out of the well. Each change costs me at least one drop of creativity. But there is another larger drain.

I’m currently serving as chapter president for Midwest Fiction, my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. I am a true believer in giving back to the community through service and I am grateful and honored that my fellow MFW members found me fit to guide the group. But oh that monthly “Letter from the President” for the chapter newsletter. The roughly 500 word column on something both relevant and clever drains considerably more creativity than a drop per word. It’s more like an open fire-hydrant.

I know my creative well will be refilled. Every day, I notice something that adds to the sense of wonder and beauty necessary for my creative world view. (You can see pictures of some of them on my Instagram feed). Until I have a chance to repair the well’s mortar or get a book contract that takes me off the query-go-round for a while, I suspect my blog will suffer a bit.

Or maybe you, dear reader, can help an author out. What are some of the ways you refill the joy in your life?

Posted in Career Day, For Writers, Writing

Career Day

My daughter’s school included me as a Career Day presenter and what a wonderful opportunity it was.  A romance writer may not seem the most logical choice to talk to third, fourth, and fifth graders, but I spoke to three standing-room-only crowds of children curious about books.  What a rush.

The school requested we bring tools of trade, wear our uniform and discuss what skills we learned in school that help in our profession.  I wore shoes today, so I wasn’t in uniform, but I brought my trusty lap-top and a fine selection of books.

I asked the children what they thought I did.  In all three presentations, they guessed I researched and wrote.  Then I told them how much I edit.  I held up pages bleeding red ink.   I saw lots of wide eyes.   Hopefully, they will remember to edit their own work.  I mentioned querying, the act of hearing no many times before hearing yes.

We discussed the skills a writer needs.  In every group, several students said writers have to be creative.  I disagree to a certain extent.  I think it is more important to have a curious mind.  The writer’s creativity comes through in different ways to answer the questions of why, what if and why not.

I was surprised to learn that by fifth grade the students are learning about the author’s voice, but diagraming sentences is not part of the curriculum.  They knew about plot and conflict, but not traditional grammar.   I strongly suspect the future will hold many jobs for editors willing to whip young writers into shape.

The number of students who liked to write in their spare time encouraged me.  Some were on their fourth or fifth book already. Others worried about writer’s block.  A few wondered if I had free books to pass out to the class.

All in all, I enjoyed answering the variety of questions they posed.  For all of the gloom and doom that future generations won’t want to read, the enthusiastic children brought me hope.  I already have ideas how I can improve my presentation if I’m invited back again and I hope I will.  I am grateful for the opportunity to meet so many creative and curious minds.   To the kids I say, keep up the good work, be persistent and I can’t wait to put your books on my reading list.