I recently attended my first writing retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico with the Women's Fiction Writers Association. My first solo non-work trip in many years. A hotel room to myself, hours of workshops, and socializing with other writers... what a dream!
When you immerse yourself in that kind of creative environment, magical inspiration hits! Right? Or maybe, your brain gets so overwhelmed that you can't seem to summon the tiniest shred of musing. That's sort of what happened to me.
A top literary agent presented to us for three days, talking about the human experience and how writing MUST connect to the raw, emotional connective tissue between people. He discussed third level emotions, seeking truth and empathy. How to create worlds in such a way that readers don't realize what a masterful job you've done opening their mind.
The lectures were so inspiring that my brain went into overdrive. And I think it was exactly what I needed.
Instead of diving into my manuscript edits, I let myself fall into the existential crisis that helped push me forward (okay, I'm being dramatic, but hear me out). My brilliant critique partners were there and together, we worked out new project ideas, and discussed crafting the stories we want to tell.
Here's what I learned: we struggle with parts of writing that are a direct reflection of the struggles in our own lives. I might be the most impatient person on the plant, and it shows. I draft like I'm possessed, splattering words onto the page like Jackson Pollock. I write fast. Too fast. I miss things. The structure is messy. Words and grammar and sentences are sacrificed at the expense of a good plot twist. In life, I gravitate toward people who are authentically their quirky selves. I can sense a fake a hundred miles away. My desire for honesty and straightforwardness leaves my stories with too much telling. I'm learning to pull back, write with a lighter hand.
I've learned to ignore my first (impulsive) ideas. I pitched my new idea to my group and they kind of shrugged. So I gave them option B and their eyes lit up. I must be patient and wait for the right thing to come along. Gems present themselves when you wait. Just as in life. And do you know what torment it was for me to sit on this idea for SIX MONTHS before starting? Miserable.
What I'm saying is, if you want to learn about yourself, write a book. Commit to something every day for a year that pushes you beyond your comfort zone. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face." As she was my inspiration for the book I'm about to pitch, CHASING ELEANOR, you can expect me to quote her from here until eternity. Because she was a force.
And so are the writers of the world.