|"So, my old foe, we meet on the battlefield once again."|
That first novel taught me something huge and valuable: never underestimate the power of a creative endeavor.
Creating something of value—whether a novel, painting, screenplay, piece of music, or the life of a child—demands reverence and care. Creative energy comes from the Creator, a being whose image we bear in our frail and broken bodies. It is a power…a force, both spiritual and emotional. It is life and love and pain. We can only handle small pieces of this power, and yet we crave it in massive doses. That’s why pacing ourselves is so important: we want the whole thing but can only digest a few bites at a time.Some people—the marathon writers—work on their novels every day throughout the year. Good for them. I learned that I need to write in blocks of time (usually one to four months) and then take a couple months off to recuperate and brainstorm. You know, take a breather. Stop and smell the roses. And all those other forbidden clichés.
During these stretches of focused writing—months of concentrated plotting and words and dialogue—I learned that I can’t skimp on the basics.What are the basics? They’re probably different for everyone. For me, I stock my writer’s cave with regular sleep, strong coffee (daily), red wine (occasionally), good friends (as much as possible), and time with family (daily).
For hardcore writing months, I also carry around at least three books in my backpack. Yes, actual books made with paper and ink. I don’t even have to worry about recharging the batteries. When I get discouraged—or feel like nobody else on earth has ever experienced the angst and sheer misery of writing a novel because obviously it is a special form of torture reserved for abnormal people like me who have an unhealthy obsession with words—then I pull out one of these books and read until I feel sane again.
1. Stephen King, ON WRITING. Love this book. The guy knows how to write, how to make a career out of it, and how to enjoy every moment. Good stuff.
2. Anne Lamott, BIRD BY BIRD. Anne Lamott has a true gift for expressing deep truth in relatable ways. My copy of Bird by Bird is crinkled and warped because I accidentally dropped it into the bathtub during a long bubble bath, and Lamott writes in such a way that makes me think she'd be okay with that.
3. Steven Pressfield, THE WAR OF ART. A friend lent this to me when I was writing my second novel (the first in the series). I was so impressed that I immediately bought my own copy and refer to it when I need a quick burst of motivation.
There are lots of terrific books for writers, but these are my tattered and torn titles that I come back to again and again when I need to focus that creative energy.
As a disclaimer, I still crash and burn sometimes. But pacing myself keeps that kind of craziness to a minimum. (For the most part.)
Now your turn. What works for you? Any favorite tricks for harnessing creative energy in your writing?