Creative Confidence: Finding The Spark Within

Writing professionally feels a lot more like head-banging on the nearest hard surface than lyrical sentences of epiphany pouring from our fingers. In the age of quotables, taglines, and books that transform generations, how do we keep our creative confidence?

 

Creativity Is A Muscle

We aren’t born with a set, measurable amount of creativity. Pouring it on one project doesn’t withhold it from another.

Creativity begets creativity. The more you use it – practice with it, exercise it, play with it – the more you have. I spent last weekend at the piano while it rained, and restored a creative energy that boosted my writing the following week. Creativity comes in all forms and elevates all forms.

Exercising creative instincts in one platform sharpens your creative outputs in another. Stretch that muscle. Bend it. Twist it. Shake it.

Most importantly, use it.

Igniting the Spark

If you haven’t felt creative in ages, nothing stands in your way from starting now. Creativity lies dormant until you bring it to life.

The way you unearth it doesn’t matter – doodle on a napkin, play chopsticks on your grandma’s untuned piano, tell your niece a bedtime story made up on the spot – but doing so ignites a spark inside that empowers your creative spirit to create again… and again… and again.

My mom is an excellent quilter. She positions shapes, patterns and color in mesmerizing pieces stitched together one loop at a time. This lends her creativity to painting where she distinguishes between the subtleties in shades of green.

Creative output is fluid. Allow it to flow.

Keeping It Lit

Allow creativity to ebb and flow. It’s a relationship you have with your craft, and that means you can’t always blast out 10,000 words in one writing sitting.

Feed it where you can, embrace the lulls when you can’t and trust that your creativity isn’t a linear experience you have when beginning a painting, a musical piece or a manuscript.

Embrace the process. Trust your experience. And celebrate your milestones.

 

 

 

Comparison: A Writer’s Slippery Slope

It’s natural – even encouraged – to find an author pool who inspires your writing. You study their character development, how they drive the plot, and the detailed ways they offer twists and turns keeping you glued to their novels.

What happens when that inspiration turns sour? Instead of feeling bolstered by an author’s ability to achieve their dream (which means you can, too!), instead you begin to feel left behind in a social media sea of new agent announcements and publishing contracts.

I think new writers are too worried it’s all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you. – Asha Dornfest

Trust Your Originality

How many different picture books are written about friendship? Overcoming obstacles? Family? Countless.

Each book offered a spin on an age old tale, and you have a twist in your story, too. Maybe it’s setting; fiction vs. nonfiction; diversity; genre. Whatever it is, find it.

One of the many agents who rejected me my manuscript years ago told me my manuscript was “too sweet.” It’s not that the story was bad, it’s that it was predictable.

In a picture book, you have a mere 500 words to grab your audience, establish the character’s problem, maneuver through the obstacles and resolve. Don’t be afraid to get to the punch and let your illustrator fill in the gaps. They tell 50% of the story! Trust children to handle a challenging or silly topic; I assure you they handle them better than most adults I know.

NYT Bestselling Published Versions

Here’s the worst kept secret in the industry: Your favorite NYT Bestselling authors rewrote those NYT bestsellers more times than they care to recall.

As you cope with wondering how they made it on that list, know that they had writer’s block, head-banging moments stuck with what to do with their protagonist, and looming deadlines pressuring them to pound out words.

Creativity is not bestowed on some and withheld from others. You have what it takes to get on that list.

If only those NYT Bestselling authors shared pre-revised pages of their novels like celebrities offer pre-photoshopped pictures of cellulite legs and muffin tops. You’d see “they’re just like us!”

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. – Suzy Kassem

Ask For Readers

Trust others to read your drafted, messy concepts. Maybe this is a family member or three, a close friend, or ideally, a writing group.

We’re all our own worst critics, so finding a few voices to point out what IS working in your story will not only keep you moving through rewrites, but also reassure you that your idea is a good one. (I could have told you that, but you probably trust these readers more than me.)

Putting our book baby in front of others intimidates us all, but it’s valuable insight into your writing. Your strengths, your areas for improvement, and hey, maybe Granny has a great twist for Secondary Character that ties it all together for you.

Your loved ones are rooting for your dreams. Let them put that cheerleading to good use.

Rejection: Coping With Writer Blues

Rejection is inevitable when writing professionally. With thousands of books in book stores, online and in libraries, it’s tempting to feel “good writers” never get rejected. It’s not true. Your favorite NYT Bestselling authors had first drafts, revised those drafts multiple times, were told their material wasn’t “a good fit,” and revised again.

They kept writing.

Professional rejection by agents and publishing houses is not personal, and it happens to every single writer.

Still, rejection feels like a punch to the gut.

“Not a good fit.” That’s OK!

You poured you soul into your manuscript for months and even years. Late nights, the same sweat pants for days, and you’re finally ready to submit your manuscript to your dream agent. You research Dream Agent, their #MSWL (manuscript wish list), and you just know that Dream Agent is going to beg to represent you.

You craft the most epic query letter to grab Dream Agent’s attention, quadruple check the submission requirements, and hit send. And then you wait. And wait some more.

On a random Tuesday, Dream Agent replies to your query (maybe! Sometimes no response means a pass, more on that another time), and it’s a standard “This is not a good fit for me at this time” response.

You’re shocked. Stunned. But take heart! It simply means that there’s another agent who would be a better advocate for your material.

I’m an analytical, practical natured person, and used spreadsheets to track my queried manuscripts.

I was rejected 154 times before I was offered representation.

They aren’t rejecting you. They’re passing on this manuscript at this time.

Now what?

You pitch this manuscript to other agents or you revise. But how do you know what to change? What didn’t Dream Agent like?

First, joining a critique group can be one of the most invaluable resources to both new and established writers.

Authors spend hours in solitude hoping to reach the masses. Ironic, isn’t it?

Critique groups pull out the strengths in your manuscript and your writing and call out spots needing improvement. They’re a fresh – but critical – eye who support your efforts and sympathize with your hardships. Invaluable.

Secondly, read. As Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Who’s writing do you like? And even better, whose writing don’t you like… and why?

Use these examples to bolster your story telling arc, character development, and plot. And revise some more.

Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this. — Roald Dahl

Keep Your Spirits Up

You don’t need to be published to be a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. Find a community or organization who loves writing like you do, and surround yourself with those who sympathize with the publication path.

Remind yourself why you love writing. Even though being published is a bucket list item for most us, dreaming about it and working for it are two entirely different things. You already know how to work hard and plow through doubts. Keep doing that. Keep doing what you know how to do – write.

One random day – just as random as that rejection letter you got? – you’ll get the call from new Dream Agent, and the emotional ebb and flow that comes with writing will ALL have been worth it.

Keep going. I’m cheering you on.

Welcome!

I love telling stories. The truer the better.

Take a look around, get some ideas, send me an email (I love to connect with other writers!), and thanks for visiting.

There is freedom waiting for you on the breezes of the sky, and you ask, “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, what if you fly? – Erin Hanson