From the Basement

August 9, 2010

On Inspiration

Filed under: Writing — jeannablue @ 1:56 am
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Today, I tripped down memory lane, writing wise. I spent a few hours downtown this afternoon at two of my old haunts. Two years ago, when I worked downtown, I’d walk to the Acoustic every day for lunch – sat at the same table, eating the same thing, writing non-stop for an hour straight. It was marvelous. I’d trained myself to do that; that hour was my writing time. I was able to write there today – I did a few exercises from The Art of War for Writers, which is great inspiration. Then I went to a coffee joint I’ve been frequenting for over ten years. It’s moved locations once and changed owners several times (it’s currently a raw food place/coffeehouse), but the coffee’s still decent. Its current location is in a former auto repair shop, so it’s got high, open beam ceilings, wood floors, and a counter that extends for more than twenty feet. I parked myself on a couch, watched the cars go by outside, listened to the writing music from two years ago, and relaxed.

Lately, I’ve been remembering how important it is to soothe the soul. Sometimes artists get so wrapped up in approaching our art like a job that we forget the value of inspiration, of sitting back and just nourishing our creativity. For me, that means not reading to learn craft. It means reading Jennifer Crusie or Elizabeth Peters, not Jhumpa Lahiri and Margaret Atwood (I still learn from Crusie and Peters – I just enjoy their stories more than literary prose). It means watching Little Women and Lie to Me (for some reason, that show really gets my juices flowing). It means trying not to get too addicted to youtube watching my favorite performances from So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol – there’s something about watching vibrant young performers pursuing their passion and all-out going for it every single week.

It means remembering that life is to be enjoyed, and even if art is our calling, it’s not our burden. Trust our Creator, trust the talent we’ve been given, buckle down and do the hard work, and freaking enjoy it. Life is short. It’s so short. Let’s not get lost in needing inspiration – but let’s not shove it, either.

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July 19, 2010

On Writing, Job Hunting, & Sun Tzu

You know you’re your mother’s daughter when you sit down in the Borders Cafe with The Art of War for Writers and are joined by your mother, who is reading The Art of War for Managers. Here’s to mother/daughter bonding with Sun Tzu.

Due to a lack of funds, I didn’t purchase the book, but one message (which I’d heard before) bears repeating — write hard, write fast. Tie that with Anne Lamott’s Shitty First Draft philosophy, and you’ve got a recipe for a first draft. Or rather, you have no excuses to not write a first draft.

So — having had my ass kicked by Sun Tzu’s modern devotees, I made a goal for myself: 15000 more words by Saturday. That comes out to 2500 a day, for those who do daily word counts. That’ll put me ca. 35000 words by the weekend, which is almost halfway through an 80000 word novel.

You’d think I would have been on fire today. But no.

Today is a wonderful example of how far I will go to avoid writing when I’ve tried to set goals. I spent way too many hours job hunting. Productive! may be what you’re thinking, but trust me, it’s more like, looking at every possible company (FBI, CIA, NSA, you know, the usual) and getting more and more depressed at the lack of jobs I’m qualified for.

I did find a few to apply to, however, and I even drafted one cover letter (not for a government agency).

This always happens. Whenever I set goals for my writing, my productivity in other areas kicks into steroid-like overdrive. Which is good for those areas. Just not for my word count.

So now that I’ve got that 6-hour job hunt out of my system (and two beers in me, let’s be honest), I’ll start writing.

I think.

15000 words aren’t gonna write themselves.

P.S. Whenever the words aren’t coming, the boyfriend suggests the Jack Bauer method of torture – you know the one about how when Jack Bauer lost his keys, he tortured himself until they gave up the location? Ah, never mind.

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