live-life-text

Dear Writers,

So, this past weekend, I did not go to NESCBWI’s annual conference. But I did catch a few tweets about it. And here was my favorite:

Dan Santat says, “The key to finding your voice is to LIVE LIFE.”

How many ways can I say YES??? and THANK YOU! How many ways can I shake my pompoms in agreement?

Live life.
This is really the first job of the writer.

It’s funny, because, during this week’s Skype visits with sixth grade student, they asked a question that offered me a chance to talk about this very topic.

Where do you find inspiration?
What do you need to do to become a writer?

My advice?
Everywhere!
Try everything!
in other words:
Live life. 

I got into it AGAIN (proving that ideas fly in the air) when a fellow writer asked me about momentum–and sustaining her career–and possibly, what I was doing wrong.

She asked: how fast do you need to get your next book out? Do I need a book a year? What if I can’t do it?

We are all so nervous about product. But that’s not the part of the writing life we can control.

I want to make an oasis for people who are not as worried about their production as they are about creating the best books possible. Look, we ALL go through slumps. We ALL get told NO. We all worry that readers will forget us. Or even worse, that editors will. And let’s not even talk about the market!!!

But we also know that if we keep working and digging and discovering, we will find a great story.

And I believe that a great story will always EVENTUALLY find a home. And readers. Even if that means taking your time.

And living life.

What choice do we really have? This is how we find stories and characters and voice in the first place. And THAT is what makes people fall in love with our books.

It’s when I am out in the world walking/talking/observing/discussing that I find the seeds to a future story. It’s when I am living in real time that I find the most satisfaction that allows me to retreat to the cave and write it all down.

Ursula LeGuin says it best.

My mother died at eighty-three, of cancer, in pain, her spleen enlarged so that her body was misshapen. Is that the person I see when I think of her? Sometimes. I wish it were not. It is a true image, yet it blurs, it clouds, a truer image. It is one memory among fifty years of memories of my mother. It is the last in time. Beneath it, behind it is a deeper, complex, ever-changing image, made from imagination, hearsay, photographs, memories. I see a little red-haired child in the mountains of Colorado, a sad-faced, delicate college girl, a kind, smiling young mother, a brilliantly intellectual woman, a peerless flirt, a serious artist, a splendid cook—I see her rocking, weeding, writing, laughing — I see the turquoise bracelets on her delicate, freckled arm — I see, for a moment, all that at once, I glimpse what no mirror can reflect, the spirit flashing out across the years, beautiful.

That must be what the great artists see and paint. That must be why the tired, aged faces in Rembrandt’s portraits give us such delight: they show us beauty not skin-deep but life-deep.

Are you ready to stretch????

So this week I wonder if maybe you might want to get away from that computer? Go out and listen. And talk. And run. And visit. And get excited about something. Volunteer. Make a new kind of art.

Go do something crazy that helps your process! Pick a new writing spot. Or take a day off. Or call an old friend. Or do something you have never done before. Talk to people you don’t normally talk to.

Live a little!

Then write!

xos

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