This is the second time I’ve hosted Caroline Starr Rose at my blog, and I certainly hope it’s not the last. She writes from her heart, whether it’s about a dyslexic girl on the prairie or two unlikely friends in colonial America or a beautiful but endangered environment, as with her newest book, Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane on the Bayou Story.
I spent fourteen years as an author in training, and while I learned many things in that time, I’m finding there are a slew of different lessons on the other side of publication. One key facet of my writing life is figuring out how to protect my creativity — how to let it grow and expand with a new project, how to feed it, how to keep it from being damaged during the fragile moments a story is finding its way. Here are a few things I’m pondering:
It’s not the mind but the emotional self that gives us confidence or causes doubt. We are directly and indirectly taught the mind is a truer compass than the heart. And this is right oftentimes, especially for highly emotional people like me (and I would suspect most other writers, who tend to connect deeply and passionately with people, ideas, stories, and universal truths). The thing is, we writers know in our heads plenty of things that never penetrate our hearts. Whether we realize it or not, the emotional “truths” that occupy our lives influence our creative selves far more than we realize.
So how can we protect the vulnerable place stories spring from? By surrounding ourselves with supportive people. While non-writing friends and family are wonderful, they don’t always understand the writing life. My support system includes authors who’ve published a few books like I have, friends much farther along the publishing path, and others just starting out. When I can’t find my way forward, I can borrow my friends’ belief in me.
Scheduling time to step away from the constant noise of the Internet has become a key aspect of my creative health. Each summer, I take a month-long blog and social media break. I stop listening and looking online and make time to listen and look at my life and work alone. Every year I come back more grounded and calm. During the rest of the year, I try to be aware of online habits that truly feed me and those that don’t. For example, reading industry blogs that analyze books by my peers is something that doesn’t nourish me right now. Though the discussions are professional, respectful, and invigorating, seeing the “faults” of books well-executed and well-received while I’m drafting my own new, unformed work is enough to make me think I’ll never produce anything of substance, depth, or worth.
I need to extend to my writing the room to grow in a safe environment. I’m learning that place is free of chatter and analysis and comparison. It’s a place my friend Val says needs to be quiet enough “to hear that small voice inside trying to remind you that you are doing something important, something special, something worthwhile.”
Here’s to protecting your creativity, whatever your endeavor.
Caroline Starr Rose is a former teacher and was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author for her debut novel, May B. She’s also the author of the historical verse novel, Blue Birds and the picture book Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story. Learn more about Caroline at www.carolinestarrrose.com
Thank you so much for hosting me today, dear Kirby. Your website looks phenomenal!
Hi, Kirby and Caroline,
I also back away from the internet–generally on the weekends–to protect my creativity and emotions. Plus, I avoid reading books that are very similar to the one I’m working on until I finish a draft/revision.
Thanks, Kirby and Caroline, for ideas on ways to protect and nurture creativity. It’s great timing for me as I both start the school year and embark on a new writing project.
Kirby and Caroline, I am big fans of both your work! I really identified with the idea that we are taught that the mind is a truer compass than the heart. All of your suggestions for protecting creativity are great. I also protect mine by making sure that writing isn’t my only creative outlet. I also love to dance, and if I feel doubtful or blocked in my writing, I put it aside for a short time to pursue my other love. I always come back recharged and refreshed.
“When I can’t find my way forward, I can borrow my friends’ belief in me.” I love this line. We need our writing community. They feed us and hold us up and keep us real and writing. I keep telling myself I need a computer break, but then I find great posts like this one. Thanks.
Beautiful words Caroline!
Lovely, heartfelt, essential thoughts, Caroline. Thank you!
My name is Jacqueline Robison. I won 2nd place in 2012 for “The incredible spinning all-seeing hat” and was at many SCBWI meetings where you were presiding. Your sweet nature was always evident. I enjoyed your writing.
Beautiful words, Caroline. Love this post. Many thanks to Kirby, too!
Thank you, all, for your insight. I especially love Helen’s effort to find a creative outlet outside of writing. Sometimes, but not as often as I like, I write things for only me, with no plans to take the piece any farther than that. It’s very satisfying.