Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Be Brave

In order to do good work, I need to remind myself to be brave. Bravery doesn't mean not feeling fear but going forward in the face of it. To do my best work, I need to enter places that are uncomfortable and painful. Like many people I prefer not to, but for a story to jump and have resonance I need to be more honest with myself and go places that are difficult. With the recent death of my mother, I've been thinking about all kinds of things, and one of them is a tendency in myself to hold back. I am aware of places this shows up in my life and in my writing and feel the need to explore this. I also want to write some pieces that are different from anything that I've done. I will continue to repeat these two words: be brave.


Ideal Conditions for My Best Work?

For the past two weeks I have been down with the flu. I would not normally recommend the flu as conducive to ideal conditions for one's best work, but the mandatory stillness of sickness forced me to take time and reflect on the past 6 to 8 months of my creative life. Though creative with plenty of out-put, I would not label the past 6-8 months "ideal conditions." I was too often racing from one deadline to the next, saying "yes" to too many things, and working 10 to 12 hour days. Now that I am returning to health, I am purposefully nurturing the ideal conditions for my best work:
  • Pause ~ Find moments throughout the day to pause and appreciate what I am writing, drawing or painting.
  • Let Go ~ Begin the day with yoga and a brief meditation to let go of all the to-do lists that begin making themselves as soon as I wake. They will return. they always do.
  • Morning is my best time for work~ Clear mornings for writing, sketching, painting.
  • Write and draw/paint on ideas that do not have a deadline~ I am a very fortunate illustrator with manuscripts to illustrate on contract for the next several years. I love having a deadline to work with, like all of my fellow potatoes, the deadline spurs me on. But giving time to stories and pictures without deadlines adds excitement and adventure to my studio life!
  • Connect with those who believe in me~ I am very fortunate to be working with an editor who believes in me. I am still not clear how it all happened. When I sent her a dark, scary first interpretation of the story SCARECROW years ago, she didn't throw out the contract, though I think everyone at Harcourt was urging her to. Instead, she gave me more time. Her patience and belief in me gave me courage. I also have an artist/composer/writer husband who is intimate with my creative process from the ecstatic successes to the weepy failures, and still he believes in me. And friends. I have cultivated many artist/author friends to share work and life with, all of whom are essential for my best work.
  • Read ~ Make time for reading. Picture Books, Chapter Books, Adult fiction and Non. Make a pile of my favorite reads nearby so I can refer to them when inspiration is needed.
  • Walks ~ A daily walk loosens my cluttered mind and if I open my eyes, something is bound to inspire me.
  • Take Time Off ~ I have a too-strong work ethic. If I am not busy on some task, I feel worthless. Having sat around the house for the past two weeks, reading, watching movies, looking through poetry and art books, and sleeping, I am convinced that time off from everything is essential to doing my best work.


I just have a few errands to run...

In reading the previous posts, I see a lot of talk about distractions. I remember the author and illustrator of the Titch and Daisy books talking about mopping her floors instead of working on her books. She said that her son knew when a deadline was looming, because that's when she did housework.

I, too, am subject to distractions. My husband even accused me of creating errands that I had to run instead of working on my projects. The nerve! (Of course he was right!)

The right conditions usually present themselves after a few days of psyching up to work on a story. My brain finally kicks in and for a few blessed weeks, I'm focused on either creating a new story or editing and revising the ones I'm working on. My best revision ideas come when I'm waking up in the morning, trying to go to sleep at night, or trying to take a nap. It does make sense that when I finally remove the distractions my brain is allowed to be creative. Of course, it means that sleep does not come as easily even though it looks like I'm getting a full 8 hours, plus a nap every day. Usually the distractions creep back in and I have to regain my focus - sometimes later rather than sooner.

Creativity is an unusual friend that needs unusual nurturing I guess. I am grateful when it visits me!


Short, Focused, Bursts of Time

Some people would think long, unstructured periods of time would promote the best opportunity for creativity. But I have found I am most productive and creative in small, focused, bursts of time, especially when I have a deadline I'm trying to meet--and I don't mean a self-imposed deadline. Large periods of time overwhelm me by pulling me in too many directions with too many options. I could do this... Or maybe I could work on that... And then I'm distracted by the deer outside my window, or I need to throw a load of laundry in the washer, or maybe I'll take a walk first, and so on...

I completed my MFA in Writing while working full-time as Coordinator of Admissions in a busy Maryland community college and while having my daughter and young grandchild sharing our home. Believe me, there were many distractions, but the deadline of having to produce a packet of creative and critical work every three weeks was my taskmaster. I devoted my one-hour lunch break each work day to writing in a study carrel tucked away in the basement of the community college library. I knew I had a limited time to accomplish a lot of work, and I was able to dive into it quickly. The hard part was to stop and re-enter my regular work world at the end of that hour. Of course, I had to fit in other early morning and late night hours at home, too, but those short bursts of time kept me going!

Now that I have more freedom, I have to designate hours here and there (with a specific beginning and ending time) to get myself on track. And nothing helps more than having a deadline from an editor!