Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
It always interests me where the idea for these blog posts come from. Sometimes, they come directly from my own work and life (more often than not, really), sometimes they come from articles or books I have read, and my thoughts on them, and sometimes they come from seemingly nowhere at all.
Today's post is a conglomerate of the former two.
Recently, I have been reading up on the craziness of the publishing world (blah, blah, blah, blah), which really is nothing new, and somewhere in between reading about the current ups and downs, and seeing writer's comments, I started thinking about production.
Or, rather, productiveness.
Do you find that you compare yourself to others -- especially other creators -- often? Do you find that you look at how much they are producing, or the "quality" of what they are producing, and find that you feel inadequate when compared to them? You might think: how on Earth do these writers manage to write full length novels in two weeks, when it has taken you two years to write one!
I'll take it another step: do you find that when you see or hear about how a peer's work is going -- usually how well, or how quickly -- you look at your own work, and then suddenly feel like you haven't done any work at all?
I know I'm terribly guilty of this, especially the latter. I always feel like I'm moving at snail's pace. But earlier today, I suddenly realized just how distracting and frustrating these comparisons could be, and that we really don't need to compare ourselves.
We all have our own abilities, and we all have our own ways of getting work done. Some of us need to outline, to spend time on the minute details. Some of us work better when we're in a certain atmosphere, or when it's a certain season. Some of us need to work with our hands and electronics both, and can't produce well if we're out of supplies, or out of our neatly organized office.
It's very difficult for me to get what most would consider a large amount of work done in a day. Between my medical issues and insomnia, I really am lucky if I can function even semi-well half the time; even tasks such as speaking or walking can become difficult -- part of why I can't have a "normal" job, and I do my best to make ends meet by my creative pursuits. My issues are debilitating to where sometimes I can't get anything more than a few sentences or pages written; a few hours of work may be a full day for me, because I just can't handle any more. But does that mean that I should feel bad about not getting "enough" done, or bad about the fact that my peers are accomplishing "more".
Let me ask you this, now: do you try your best when you work?
Since I was small, my mother has always said: "No one can ask for more than your best", and I truly believe that. My best isn't going to look like someone else's best, but you know, their work isn't going to look like mine, either -- for better or for worse. If we do our best, whether we accomplish no "more" than a few pages, or the outline of a drawing, we should be proud and accept not only our limits, but our creative contributions.
Rome wasn't built in a day, they say -- and if my words are built one hour at a time, I will endeavor to make every one of those hours the best that it can be.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
I hope you all had a good weekend. I know I certainly did! And, in fact, today I'm here to talk about part of my weekend -- my first (in a while) group writing critique.
A few weeks ago, at my weekly writing group, my friends and I discussed reviewing stories for others, and somehow that was translated to reviewing each other's work. I'll admit, the idea made me nervous, because of course we are always nervous to have our work picked apart, but I had been entertaining the idea of finding a critique group or BETA for a long while, and when the idea was presented, I knew I couldn't say no.
Our group is pretty diverse, and not just in writing styles. We have a far-away engineer, a college professor, a fabulous artist, a school teacher who sometimes pops up...and me; we all have different styles, and interest, and yet we can all agree on some things, and we share bits of fascination with stories. I really couldn't ask for a better review group, but still that fear lingered in the pit of my stomach.
It's difficult to get used to criticism. You would think after years of time in the theatre, I would be used to it, but somehow to me, critique on writing seems so much different -- or perhaps it's that I've been away from the stage for so long, because looking back I can remember that same, asphyxiating fear. Through years of publishing, I've become used to people I don't know, who I will probably never know, critiquing my work, and most of the time I don't pay too much attention to them, but it's different when it's your friends, people you know closely enough to really respect.
Needless to say, the first week after our talk I didn't bring anything in for review. I had a legitimate excuse -- my printer was dead -- but I was relieved none the less, because I didn't have to go first. One of my other friends, whose work I've read before, brought in some things for us to read, and I was happy to see (a bit selfishly, maybe, but I'm only human) that she was nervous, too.
As time lapsed between our next full group meeting, I tried to talk myself into being brave, not being scared of what they might say. And then finally I made a decision: I was going to do this, scared or not, because it was going to help me, my writing, and it would help my friends, too.
It's the moments we follow through on our decisions, not the moments we make them, that make all of the difference.
Peer review is great, because you learn things as you're reading someone else's work, and you learn things from friend's reading yours. You can throw ideas around, and get feedback, and you grow closer together, I think, from sharing in the world of your friend's creative universe.
The most recent morning of writing group, I was still terrified -- but I printed my chapter out, added paper clips to the copies, wrote my friend's names on the top (I'm a bit OCD), and put those copies in a folder to bring. Once there, I told myself again that I would give them to my friends, that they wouldn't just sit there in my bag. When I pulled them out and handed them to said friends, and reviewed the work I was to read in turn, I was extremely nervous, my hands shaking the entire time. When we went over what they had marked on my work, I was red-faced with embarrassment, and laughing at my silly "mistakes". It was heart-wrenching, in a way, but I survived -- and more than that, I had a good time.
It really is good to be able to laugh at yourself.
My friends helped me to see that no work is perfect right off the bat, and that that's okay. Room for improvement is okay. Going back and editing -- once, twice, ten or twenty times, until you're satisfied enough, because you're never completely satisfied -- is okay.
Sharing your work is okay.
Don't be afraid to give your work to those you trust for them to read it. You never know what new thoughts they might lead you to, and in the end, it will make you a better writer -- what you really should be concerned about.
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Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind a lot lately, and something that I am, surprisingly, learning quite a bit about, as if I never really understood it before --
I've written posts about being inspired, of course, and I always look for ways to become inspired, and keep inspiration flowing, but in my creative journey lately I recognized something that was holding me back from accomplishing as much as I could --
We as people shame plenty of things, many that we probably shouldn't, and some perhaps that we aren't even aware of, but it never before occurred to me before that inspiration might be one of them.
Where do your ideas come from? Other books -- films, stories passed down from your grandmother, life experiences, music, nature? What inspires you? Sometimes inspiration can seem so simple, but at other times it can also be infinitely complex, especially when we put shaming with it.
What do I mean? Have you ever read a book and thought "this sounds a lot like Harry Potter", or saw a film and thought "they ripped this off of something else"? I'm sure you have -- and I know that I have. And while these claims may be accurate in circumstances, in this post I want to focus on what these type of claims, or "shaming", can do in a creator's inspirational life.
The world of creativity can be competitive, and sometimes it's difficult to deal with, especially if you get comments like these. But when does "inspiration" become "copying", and what are some of the negative effects of taking the fear of your work being found as "too close to the original" close to heart?
First, let's start by talking a bit about what led me to write this post in the first place, a book I've been reading that really put things into perspective for me:
A few months ago, I found a beautiful old boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia at a thrift store, and picked it up. It is, if I remember my dates correctly, one of the original boxed sets of the series, and I love it dearly. But before I sat down to read the first book in the Chronicles, I decided to read this biography of C.S. Lewis, which I had had lying around for years, waiting to be opened, first.
I'm so glad I read this book! I definitely recommend it to fans of C.S. Lewis, and to writers as well, because it may give you a new perspective on your creativity, as it did me...
The biography is really less of a traditional biography, and more of a history/theory on C.S. Lewis as an author, and what went into creating Narnia -- what inspired him.
See that word? Inspiration. It looks so small, but it has such a big importance.
Prior to starting this book, I decided to completely rework my publishing life, as you may know, going the road less traveled for many reasons. One of those, I discovered, was linked directly to my view of inspiration, and how skewed it had become. After starting "Into The Wardrobe", I began analyzing what I currently thought of inspiration, and found myself rather appalled.
It wasn't until I read about Lewis -- an author I have an extreme amount of respect for -- and some of his sources of inspiration that I realized I had come to think of inspiration not as, well, being inspired, but as stealing.
"This sounds a lot like Harry Potter."
"They must have taken this from an old film."
"They copied another classic."
"This is definitely fan fiction."
I have heard these words again and again -- and I have said them myself -- and somehow something so important to a creator has become no more than petty theft.
But in reading, I re-discovered what inspiration really is, or can be. Lewis was a well-learned scholar, and drew inspiration for Narnia from a variety of sources -- ancient myths, books he had read as a child, friend's works, life experiences, etc. Some of these inspirations were blatant, perhaps purposefully, but that doesn't mean that the end product was any less brilliant or inspired, or that plenty of work didn't go into his writings.
Think of Harry Potter, a common source for many new books' inspiration. Where did the idea come from? Surely there was some inspiring factor. I am a fan of the saying "you can't get something from nothing".
I can't say that there isn't a fine line between being inspired and stealing, because there is a fine line, one that everyone must walk and discern on their own -- but that doesn't mean that inspiration should be shamed, or that there is anything wrong with getting ideas from other works. The moment we start thinking of being inspired as "stealing", we begin to cut our hands off, and tie our creativity into a bind, because we become so afraid of looking like a fool or a cheat.
My creative writing teacher used to say: "Good authors steal well," and I understand now what she meant -- not that being inspired is stealing, but that being inspired comes with responsibility, and those that cannot uphold it may fall into a pit. Once we fall into that pit of fear, it is very hard to pull ourselves back out.
There will always be people who accuse you of stealing, of copying, and that is something that we all have to come to terms with; as I said, we all have to walk that thin line for ourselves, and come to our own conclusions about it, and understand that we can never change others' minds, but we can control how we think, and we will always know if we go too far. But we shouldn't let the possibility for ridicule sway us from being inspired, and letting our inspirations drive us, because then we miss out.
Dearest creator, please remember: there is nothing wrong with being inspired; there is nothing wrong with reworking your favorite elements of a story; there is nothing wrong with using reflections of your favorite characters; there is nothing wrong with using reflections of your favorite world or plot; there is nothing wrong with paying homage to the creators and stories that you love.
Being inspired comes with responsibility, as does creating. There are two sides to every coin.
Perhaps Mr. Lewis said it best:
"People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now."
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Blog Updates ~
I have been extremely busy since the dawn of the "new" site, and things are going well! Surprisingly, I've had an old story, which I put on the "probably won't be finished" shelf a few months prior, come back to me -- time for a rewrite!
Before I go into my reasonings, I want to extend a special thank you to everyone who had stuck by me through this period of change. Things have been crazy, emotional, and frustrating, but I am finally getting to a point where they are going better, and I can see a new horizon. I've realized that things had to change in order for me to go forward, and so that is what I am working towards.
So, the story? Some of you might remember Shadows of Past Memories, one of my first releases ever? I have decided to rework and rewrite the story from scratch, because it was needed at this point. To re-connect with myself as a writer, and to become better at my craft, I've had to go back to the beginning.
So I am in the process of rewriting right now. I can't say how long it will be, but I've come to realize that the amount of time doesn't matter; I will do my best to stay true to this story, and that's what really is important. I will be posting artwork semi-regularly, though, such as the fox picture above, so please enjoy that until I have more to tell about my project.
It is very exciting!