I am often asked where I get the ideas for my books. All stories start with an idea, right? The idea is the thing that gets you excited about writing. It’s the thing you need to remember when you’re 30,000 words in and you can’t remember why you started that stupid book in the first place. I know, I’ve been there. In fact, I’m there right now.
When my son was about ten he said to me, “Mom, I had a nightmare. I was trapped in Hell and I had to answer math questions to get out.” And the idea for Welcome To Kata-Tartaroo was born. When I wrote the second book in the series, Welcome To Bibliotheca, I wanted to revolve the adventure around a quirky character trait of my main character. He’s a kid that loves the library. And that story was born.
Inspiration comes from stories on the news or life experience. But be careful about the life experience thing. I hear a lot, “you should write my life story.” Yeah – No. Not everyone’s story is interesting enough. Sorry. Hard truth. That adage, write what you know, doesn’t mean tell your life story in a book. It means write what you know and if you don’t know something research it. But we all take pieces of things from our lives or from people we know and incorporate that into our books. That’s perfectly fine.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. What’s really important is what you do with that spark. Do you breathe life into it or do you let it burn out?
Have you ever watched HGTV‘s show Fixer Upper? Fixer Upper is a home renovation show hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines. They fix up homes in Waco, TX. Chip is the brawn and Joanna is the design brains and beauty. I’m in awe of Joanna Gaines.
She is a mother of four, has a successful television show, a design business, a bed and breakfast, is a devout Christian and is younger than I am. I have two kids. Compared to her I’m not really a parent. I don’t have the kind of successful business she has, I don’t feel at home in any religion, and I’m getting older by the second.
I’m not saying I would trade places with Joanna. I don’t know what her life is really like behind the cameras. Her kids might hate that she’s not around or their whole lives might revolve around the business and just once they’d like it to be different. She seems super nice, but maybe she’s a good actress. I don’t want to live on a farm with all those animals. Some days I’m not even sure I want the dog. But she sure does make life look clean, neat, and well-adjusted.
It’s hard not to compare myself to her when the laundry is piled taller than I am, dog hair tumbles across the hardwood floor, the mail needs to be sorted, kids need to be driven to a thousand places (that’s not much of an exaggeration) and I have words to write, clients to appease and appearances to be at. Joanna makes it look easy.
But it ain’t easy. In fact, even as I write this the laundry needs attention, again, I’m out of shampoo, I have to figure out how to grab both kids today at the exact same time from two different places, this blog post has been a thorn in my side for days, I need to write a blog post for my client, and I have a word count for the new novel I must hit. I did manage to brush my teeth, cleanup last night’s dinner, and set the house alarm before I left to go to the Starbucks and write. It’s a win, ladies and gents! It’s a win.
We all know social media and television make life look like it’s all homemade food and hand sewn clothes. It isn’t. Life is messy. I don’t believe half the posts I see from moms who go on and on about how proud they are of their children and how amazing this kid is and this mom can’t believe how lucky they are. Every parent (okay, not every) feels that way about their kid. We all love our children with such a fierceness it could blow up the universe. These same moms also want to pull their hair out of their heads from time to time, imagine a vacation alone on a sunny beach with no one yelling “MOM!!!” and have at some point wondered why they thought being a mother was a good idea in the first place. Oh, trust me, it’s true. (If you don’t have teenagers, don’t weigh in on that comment. Come back to me in a few years. We’ll talk then.) Doesn’t make anyone bad for thinking that. Perhaps our Joanna has glimmered that thought too.
Last night I was talking to a friend who had suffered the rampage of Hurricane Sandy. Long story short, she and her family recently moved back into their home. She’s expecting baby number two and the house isn’t ready, the room isn’t ready, boxes everywhere. I said, “It will all get done in time. Don’t worry about it.”
Why do women feel such pressure to be perfect? Me included. Is it because women before us burned their bras and fought for our opportunities to hold great jobs and raise families and own homes and not need the help of another human being while doing all of this, least of all a man? Or is it because the Joanna Gaineses of the world paint a picture we try to strive for? It would be easier to climb Mt. Everest than keep our stuff together in a picture perfect way without help. Heck, even the climbers of Everest have help. They don’t go to the top alone, why should we?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in this whole it takes a village to raise a child business. No, your child is your responsibility. You raise him or her. The occasional car pool is one thing, but the constant watch my child so I can work and go on vacation in Disney mumbo jumbo doesn’t fly with me. Sorry, my opinion. (Before someone goes nuts, I’m not referring to the single mother working three jobs and living in a studio apartment trying to make ends meet. She needs the help. So, help her.)
But it is okay to say, I can’t do that right now. I can’t volunteer for one more group, or wash the car, or dinner is just going to have to be cereal. It’s okay to say to our partners, I need your help with the kids, the food, the horses, the bodies I’m trying to bury. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Our home, children, job, and appearance don’t have to be perfect. And while we’re busy perfecting all these things we’re forgetting to better our souls. We should strive for more kindness, compassion, and generosity. We need to perfect our listening skills, because as a former Speech, Theater, Commmunications major I can tell you with assurance listening is a skill that can be learned. We need to experience things that make us feel better. Yoga, long walk in the parks, sunsets, coloring books, laughter.
When our souls are running over with warmth and peace we’ll be the better mother, wife, friend, business woman. Then and only then can we become the Joanna Gaineses of the world.
I recently read a blog post from Writers Unboxed about letting our creativity rest. It’s a wonderful blog written by a large list of writers for writers about the craft, the business, and the life of writers. If you’re a writer and don’t follow it, I suggest you do. Just the posts from Donald Maass alone are worth hitting the subscription button. (If you don’t know who he is, click on his name. You’ll be impressed. I promise.)
I recently went through a period of not writing. I’m not sure I’d call it a “rest” because I didn’t choose to stop. It was more like a detour. My life became stressful and the voices in my head that feed my work just dried up. I had nothing to say. And was beginning to realize no one was listening anyway. My friends and family told me the inability to write was understandable with all that was going on. One insightful friend said, “three books in three years. You deserve to rest.” Others said be patient (not something I’m good at) the voices would come back. It was over a month before I wanted to sit at my computer again. I didn’t stay there long. Words stretched and yawned reluctant to throw the covers off. The desire to sell my work stayed in hibernation. I had to take a detour whether I liked it or not.
The thing is I’m afraid to take time away from my writing. I haven’t made my full dream come true. I’ve published three books, but they aren’t selling because I haven’t handled that part of my business correctly. I feel like a failure. And a part of me thinks if I stop, if I don’t produce I’ll never have the readership I want. It’s a voice on a loop, “you must write. you must do more. Learn more. Read more. Be more.” Why am I so obsessed with more? Why isn’t what I’ve done enough? Why can’t I take another route, and enjoy the warmth of my accomplishments as the sun streams through my open sunroof?
Is it because I think time is running out? And time resting is time wasted. My father-in-law asked me once if I ever sat down. The Coffee King will tell you, I hate naps. I also hate getting lost. Detours are not my friend.
But I couldn’t force the words. They would awaken when they wanted to.
I let the words lie and tried other things. I read more. A lot more. Genres I didn’t normally read. I colored. I exercised and caught up on some television shows. I sat at my computer and waited for the voices to tell their story. And they did. Slowly.
I’m writing again. It’s different than the other times. I’ve outlined the entire book in more details than I’ve ever used for an outline. I still worry the words will elude me because my word count is low for the time I’ve put in. I worry the story isn’t good enough and no one will like it. I feel the loop of “more, more, more” creeping into my brain, but I can tell it to pull over and turn off the engine once in a while. Not often and not for long, but it’s better than running out of gas on the Parkway.
The full dream will come true. In time. Just not my time. And not my route.
How are you handling the journey to your bliss? What steps have you taken? Are you finding yourself faced with an unexpected detour? What does the road ahead look like?
Recently we spoke about living your bliss. If you missed it, you can check it out here. I was glad to see this started many conversations around the dinner table. I truly believe everyone should be doing what brings them joy.
Today, I thought we’d talk about a way to start that journey.
Find a partner.
You need someone in your life who will hold you accountable. Could be a spouse. If your spouse doesn’t completely understand your need to be a tight-rope walker, that’s okay. Find someone who does. There’s probably a tight-rope walker support group near you.
Make an agreement with this person to email them, and they you, about the steps you’ve taken to accomplish your goal (and theirs). Set a date to send that email by. And keep it simple. Write your accomplishment in the subject line and hit send. It doesn’t have to be a big, long email.
Maybe you need to do research on how to open a bakery. Let your partner know that you did it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a photographer. Send your buddy a picture every time you take one. Or start an Instagram account to catalog your accomplishments if your friends are tired of seeing pictures of squirrels eating nuts.
I have critique partners and many writer friends. My one writer friend, Leslie, (she has a fantastic blog about books, writing, and being a librarian. Check her out when you get a chance,) and I will often email each other our daily word count. It keeps us accountable. Meeting with my critique partners also keeps me accountable (I have to bring pages once in a while) and my wonderful writer friends, especially M. Kate Quinn, Shari Nichols, K. M. Fawcett, and Chris Redding keep me from jumping off the ledge with things get tough. (All these women are wonderful authors. If you’re looking for something to read, don’t miss them.)
If you’ve looked around and there is no one you can share this new, exciting journey to bliss with, then tell me. Leave a comment or send and email. I want to hear about how you’re changing your life and living your bliss. And if you’re already living your bliss, then share your inspiration with us. Namaste
Welcome To Bibliotheca, Book Two in the Gabriel Hunter series, for Kindle is on sale May 3-4 for $.99. Don’t miss it.