Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
I hope you're enjoying your October so far, and are looking even more forward to NaNoWriMo right around the corner. This post comes from a chat I had with my good writerly friend El the other day, and I know it pertains to an area that I have struggled with over time:
But the title of the post relates to inspiration, Alexandra, so what do you mean? Well, in this case the two go hand in hand. Let me explain.
El, as I have said, has been "out" of writing for quite some time, and her interests have certainly changed. She used to like more Paranormal stories, and she still does, but she's definitely shifting towards Fantasy in her writing (I will try to stray as far as possible from the confusing world that is genres and sub-genres, for everyone's sanity; it can be noted that Fantasy and Paranormal are at times they same thing...sigh). So recently El asked me what I recommended to get her to understand more about Fantasy.
Alright, so I lied. I will speak a bit about genres. My advice is this: don't worry about them. Targeting your book to a specific (or more often, more than one specific) genre can be useful for marketing down the road, but genre really has little to do with the writing process itself; it only makes one frustrated, in my experience. All too often writers try and stick to tropes within a genre, if they worry about genres, and that generally isn't good for anyone's health or creativity (unless you're writing a parody, and want to make fun of those tropes). I don't pay too much attention to genre until I go to actually publish the work...but I do pay attention to writers.
Anyway, more on that in a moment! As I was saying, El asked what I thought might help her understand Fantasy better, what might make her "write it the right way". I basically told her what I said above, but I also told her what helps me: finding things I love through others writers, and emulating those things -- gaining new ideas, seeing how aspects I love have been presented before.
They say that the best artists are artists who steal (from others, from nature, from history), and I definitely believe that is true. Nothing is new, and when you embrace that, the pressure of trying to write something completely new vanishes, and then you can work more freely. Stealing is completely different from copying, however, I want to note, so keep that in mind -- copying is for the realm of fan fiction, not original fiction; we want to write love notes to those who have come before us, not plagiarize. Find what inspires you, and why, and see how you can use it.
To put this into better perspective, T.S. Eliot said: "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn."
So, what inspires you? I've spoken about this many times before, but I want to take it a step further--
What do you know about what inspires you? How much research have you done?
I've stated many times that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and of course my favorite author Madeline L'Engle, have had big impacts on my writing, and have taught me plenty about writing itself, and about what type of stories I want to tell. But was it enough just reading their work, and seeing how they wrote? Maybe it could have been enough, but in the end I wanted more, and I have something to tell you: I learned so much more from wanting more.
Anyone can read an author's work, but what about the author? What about their life, and the things that led to them creating their work? How did they feel about writing, what practices did they have, who did they emulate, what books did they cherish, what myths and histories did they draw from? What is the backstory behind their writing, and where can you see new ideas that never had a chance to be born?
If you want to be inspired to write a great book, you have to put the work in. Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, but if you have an interest, chase after it. Find out all you can about whatever interests you, whatever you believe you will be putting into your story. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself, but don't stop at reading a favorite author's work -- step outside of that work, and discover more. What you look for may not be necessarily about the author themselves, but about what they wrote, what they added to literature, what devices they employed, but do more than scratch the surface.
The tiniest thing can lead to a new idea, and it will bring you closer to those you admire. When I told El that genre really didn't matter, she found it odd, because most of the time people tell you the genre matters too much, but the lack of importance as far as genre has been true for me. Genre is just a label (and interestingly enough, when my mother was young, they had yet to employ genres at all), but the story and its author are real; what inspired them is real.
So, fellow or future writer, do some research. Find a new favorite author, see what types of books are similar in idea to what you want to write, discover your author's backstory, find an essay they wrote concerning writing, take a walk in the park. Grab a notebook, and anything that inspires you, write it down and keep it close when you're in the middle of NaNo, and in need of some inspiration.
Look beyond the ordinary, writer, and your work will exceed the ordinary, as well.
Some of my (non-fiction) book recommendations, in case you're interested:
A Circle of Quiet ~ by Madeline L'Engle
Steal Like An Artist ~ by Austin Kleon
It's Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things To Consider ~ by Jim Henson
Brain Storm ~ by Don Hahn
The Imagineering Way ~ by The Disney Imagineers
On Writing ~ by Stephen King
The Art Of The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkien ~ (His actual art, not that film nonsense.)
Also for interest, a piece Tolkien wrote about fantasy stories, in PDF, which is very interesting: it can be found here.
Updates: InkTober and Tumblr ~
So, I've discovered something about InkTober, this year of which is my first year doing it: I don't like drawing fast. I love to sketch, but sketching in ink isn't really my forte, and I'm never happy about a "badly done" drawing; it is apparently much easier to make myself write than draw quickly, probably due to the ease of words...or more practice, or something. So, I've decided to slow my InkTober down to one drawing a week. My schedule is busier than anticipated, and I really want to do my best with these drawings.
Also, my Tumblr...I've been debating about this for a while, and I've finally decided to close it. It has become too distracting for me, and too much to keep up with, and I want to dedicate myself more fully to my work. Thank you to everyone who has followed, liked, re-blogged, and commented, but I will be shutting the Tumblr down this week. Thank you for your understanding.