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[Making the Leap] What Inspires You?
Contributor
Written by
Julie Luek
May 2018
Contributor
Written by
Julie Luek
May 2018

This week, as I dug into my writing, I got to the point most of us get to when we feel bogged down by the work. Suddenly my shiny, new idea was mired in a couple really bad first chapters. In fear of failure, I found distraction in other projects. I haven't yet abandoned my manuscript. Despite the mess that faces me, I believe in my idea enough to keep slogging through it and not give up.

When I feel really hopeless, I turn to my online writing pals.They encourage me to keep going. My author friend T.J. Loveless sent me this message today: Remember this, my friend: First drafts don't have to be perfect. They just have to be written. She has multiple books on the market. If she can say this to me and believe it, it must be true!

Thank goodness for all the writers who have gone before me and urge me forward.They remind me that these overwhelming feelings of inadequacy are normal, but I must not give up just because the writing is hard.

For a little additional writing inspiration this week, I pulled out my old notebooks filled with notes from all the craft books I have read over the years. As I flipped through the pages, I felt my shoulders relax. Yes. Yes. It is hard. Other writers, famous writers, people who know their stuff, remind me that getting the ideas out of my head and on to the paper is not for sissies. 

I picked out a couple nuggets of wisdom that especially struck me and wrote them down on an index card. I am keeping it by my computer to remind me to persevere when I want to chuck the whole mess into the recycle bin on my desktop.

I have labeled this card my “Rules of Writing” and will share it with you since we are friends and on this journey together.

My Rules of Writing My Nonfiction Book (Paraphrased and Quoted)

  • Say what you want to say, not what you think you should say. Let it be shit. (Natalie Goldberg, The Art of Writing Memoir)
  • Remember the Wild Mind: Allow your mind and voice to go where it wants to go. (Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind)
  • Please trust the process. If the process is sound, the product will take care of itself. (William Zinnsser, Writing About Your Life)
  • Write up one memory a day. Don’t worry about making it a book yet. Just practice. You'll gradually begin to find your style--the person you want to sound like, the person you really are. (William Zinnsser, Writing About Your Life)
  • All writing is talking to someone else on paper. Talk like yourself. (William Zinnsser, Writing About Your Life)
  • When I begin to write, I open myself up and wait. (Pat Schroeder, How The Light Gets In)
  • I was blocking myself by trying to write a chapter, rather than simply what I needed to say. (Pat Schroeder, How the Light Gets In)

Really, these aren’t so much rules--and that's precisely the point--as they are reminders to hush the inner editor and let my writing flow. My biggest hangup seems to be all the self-imposed rules, structure, and correctness I place on my writing. When I get in my critic zone, I become stymied by my overwhelming inability.

I know not every day of staring at my computer is going to be inspiration. I get that much of it is digging in and doing the work. But sometimes I impose an expectation of greatness on my words, one which I can never attain, and it leaves me feeling discouraged, like a failure. Instead I "should"...

Write because I have something to say.

Write because I can communicate to someone through my words.

Write because I need to get the idea out.

Write because it's a gift, given to me, to be able to do so.

 

What reminders and quotes do you have around your computer to help you keep going when the words become drudgery? Where do you turn for inspiration? Share your words of inspiration with us. (I have more room on my index card.)

 

Reference resources:

Writing About Your Life by William Zinsser
The Art of Writing Memoir:Finding the Past in the Present by Natalie Goldberg
Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life by Natalie Goldberg
How The Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice by Pat Schroeder

 

* This post was originally published in March 2014.

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Comments
  • Julie Luek

    Carson, I think you hit on a piece I need to be much better about incorporating discipline, which is really what those quotes are about, into my writing practice. Thank you for that reminder!

  • Carson Gleberman

    I love your "rules." Especially Zinsser's one memory a day.

    For me it's always about redoubling the focus. I keep these two quotes in my "Stickies":


    "If the muse is late for work, start without her."- Richard Nordquist, but brought to my attention by Joe Bunting at thewritepractice.com

    "Be regular and orderly in your life - so that you may be wild and original in your work." - Flaubert

    I sometimes set a timer for 20 or 30 or 45 minutes and tell myself, "For just this long I am going to push forward on this. I will see how much higher I can get the wordcount by the time the timer goes off, and call that success no matter what it looks like." And then, almost always, my mind boat will get caught up in some useful idea current, at least for a little while. This experience made me add my own Sticky:

    "You must write the ugly sentence, often, to unlock the three beautiful ideas hiding behind it." - Carson Gleberman

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Lisa, great suggestions and I'm going to look for the tips by Kurt Vonnegut. We're doing to assume he knew his stuff. ;)

  • Lisa Thomson

    I can relate to your blocks. I'm writing fiction and I get overwhelmed with the manuscript itself.  The changes I've made and where to continue (Instead of editing the story).  It's not for sissies, so true.  One thing is when I veer off in the plot and then wonder why I did that.  But apparently that's normal and in the next draft you decide whether to keep or change the course of action.  I found a simple graph style tips by Kurt Vonnegut on how to tell a great story.  I also keep pictures and images of my characters and settings as cues.  Thanks for sharing your tips,Julie.  I love the image you've used too :)

  • Julie Luek

    Jenny, I think sometimes that's just what you need to refresh our spirits. Great point. 

  • Julie Luek

    Karen, first I love anything Julia Cameron writes-- she's so good at inspiring. Second, I'm going to look up that poem. Just the bits you offered sounds amazing! Thank you.

  • Wow. Thank you so much, Julie!

    Two of my favorites is a quote by Julia Cameron in "The Artist's Way": ~ Anything is worth doing badly at first; & You can do anything for 15 minutes a day. So, I trust the principle that my writing might improve if I write for 15 minutes a day (the 3 "morning pages" concept can take all day for an ADD writer like me)

    I also love an untitled poem by Rilke that begins "You darkness that I come from...."  It ends "....I have faith in nights." It puts me in this place where I am open to gathering thoughts from the dark, cobwebby places of my mind...even my heart...and that sometimes the deepest thoughts and feelings can be most accessible when it seems like darkness surrounds me, whether it be the darkness of aloneness or writer's block, or an unresolved blip in a relationship.

    I love the idea of writing down a memory a day. i will try that.

  • Julie Luek

    Clene, sometimes I even start it like a letter to a friend, "Dear.... " just to get me out of that rote sounding place and more like me. 

  • Julie Luek

    Oh Marian, thank you for sharing this. It's going on the card. Yes, exactly. 

  • Marian Szczepanski

    From George Saunders' interview in last year's NYT magazine: "...the process is still a noble one--the process of trying to say something, of working through craft issues and the worldview issues and the ego issues--all this is character-building, and, God forbid, everything we do should have concrete career results." 

    I love this quote because it honors The Process over The Product. Getting too caught up in "is this marketable" or "will this attract an agent" or even "is this good" is enough to choke even the most dedicated writers. Trying, over and over and over, to just get it down, whatever "it" is--that's what matters, and that's what keeps me going.

  • Julie Luek

    Calliope-- Perfect. Yes. I need to remind myself the same thing. Just something. Everyday. Remind myself why I fell in love with it. 

  • Calliope Lappas

    Hi Julie,

    Thank you for sharing these great reminders!  I will add them to my list as well. I have a few things pinned on a cork board above my kitchen table.  But the one I notice most is -- Every morning, as I drink my coffee, the first thing I see written on an index card (aren't index cards the best? :)) is my handwritten note to myself:  WRITE EVERYDAY!!!  It's my reminder to just write something, anything every single day. 

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Lisa, boy I sure do. :)

  • Lisa Hamer

    Great inspirational quotes.  We all need a little writing pick me up every once in a while.