Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pumping Your Muse

My critique buddies know that, for the first time in my 11 yrs of writing, I've had trouble starting another book once I finished the last. In the past I ALWAYS finished polishing a story, selected a dozen favorite agents most likely to appreciate this story, submitted queries, and then immediately set about plotting and researching a new story--but not this year.

This time I was curiously besieged with a series of insecurities and worries that made me unable to happily settle on a new story. I lost my joy. I let worries and the business of writing steal my joy. I always said that I don't HAVE to write and when it's not fun any more, I wouldn't do it. The stories I did think of that fascinated me weren't in my current genre. I thought of a suspense and a YA story that seemed fun--but they certainly wouldn't help me build a women's fiction career. The lack of a story that gripped my interest made it not fun. Was it time to quit?

I'm NOT a quitter. In fact, I'm annoyed by the great rejections my past books continue to garner. I'm a self-proclaimed submission slut. Over the course of 5 books, I've earned more than 400 rejections! I currently have 4 agents considering one book and 2 editors and 2 agents considering another women's fiction book. I KNOW there's someone out there that will believe in my stories as much as I do and it's just a matter of time before I find them, but Lord the submitting can wear at your patience and confidence. So what's a writer to do? Write another story and get better at my craft.

But as the months passed, I could not settle on the perfect story. So what did I do? I gave myself permission to do something else. I concentrated on other creative outlets.

I gave my time to critiquing writer pals when asked. I spent more hours helping plan the Crested Butte Writers Conference (June 19-21, 2009). I worked with a landscaping friend and fueled my creativity with flowers and plants. I immersed myself in a new hobby that fascinated me--mosaics. My first effort at mosaics is pictured to the left, and for those of you who think like several of my family members, it's a BEAR. And bears do NOT have tails I can see --or feel in the case of my bear footrest, Jerome!

I had a lot of fun doing my mosaic. I can't wait to start my second project, and over the month it took me to complete it . . . I got my joy back! I settled on a new story, darker than any I've ever written, yet it absolutely fascinates me. I no longer CARE that it's more suspense than women's fiction or that it won't help with branding myself; it'll be fun and interesting to write and that's why I started writing in the beginning. Though it might not be the smartest move for my career (or it may turn out to be the start of my career) I'm going to write it--and have fun!

Then Christmas season rolled around and we got many lovely cards, but my critique buddies, LA & KL sent me bea-u-tiful homemade cards! Despite being under strict, self-imposed writing deadlines, they took the time to fuel their creativity in a different way--card making. So I'm not alone in needing more than one creative outlet. We are far more than just writers and this Christmas season, I'd like to celebrate that fact.

Merry Christmas to all of you and best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year!



Audra Harders said...

Wonderful insights, T! You've had a loooong run of creative inspiration going -- much longer and deeper than I've ever experienced. You've been a marvel to watch create books, develop marketing plans, contact editor and agents and just all round love what you're doing.

You are not a quitter.

We all need down time, and I learned a long time ago that giving myself permission to set aside writing for a while rather than fighting it makes me a stronger, fuller writer when I come back. Take a break. Allow yourself to enjoy crocheting (at which you are a master), creating mosaics, doing things for the Crested Butte writers.

Enjoy your family!!

Writing is a part of you. Let that portion of your brain have a vacation. A little bit of well-dipping can go a long way : )

BTW, I agree, bears DO NOT have tails : )

Donnell said...

T. Your mosaic is fantastic, your muse is all over the place and the research your doing for your new WIP is gellin' Thanks for the inspiration. How wonderful to have a muse that divides her time. You may be creating mosaics, but piece by piece as you create another art form your muse is whispering sweet "What ifs" to you. Merry Christmas! And you're right bears don't have tales ;) I checked!

Misty Evans said...

Hi Theresa. I love your mosaic...I've always wanted to try those myself with colored glass.

Creativity is an essential element for writers, no matter what form we chose to fill our well with. We are artists and need constant challenge and inspiration. Learning something new can provide a sense of wonder and accomplishment. It restores our self-confidence and satisfies that bone-deep need to explore our world.

Good luck with your writing and your other endeavors in 2009. I admire and applaud your perseverance and your creativity!