Agent Monday: Creativity for a Stressed Writer

Note that became A DAY SO GRAY

Marie’s note that inspired her new picture book A DAY SO GRAY

Happy Agent Monday, everyone! These are tough times, and everyone reacts differently. For some writers, it’s a period of isolation that leads to deep thinking and bursts of incredible creativity. But if you are feeling stuck, rest assured, you aren’t alone. As a writer myself, I’m finding it hard to string together big ideas, even though I may be pondering plenty. Are you feeling the same?

While this can be distressing to an author who is used to having words a-flowing, do take heart. Your subconcious is surely hard at work. And take notes, because books do indeed grow from those seemingly small ideas that pop into your head.

Witness the note above that I wrote to myself after journaling early one morning. It was a simple idea, but it had some true power behind it – at least to me. So I stuck it on my desk and let it sink in. It grew and became a picture book manuscript, which then became A DAY SO GRAY, illustrated by Alea Marley, and published by Clarion Books.

a-day-so-gray-interior1

Starting pages from Marie’s picture book A DAY SO GRAY

The book features two friends, one who complains, saying, “This day is so gray,” and another who says, “No it isn’t!” and then points out all the colors in the landscape. It’s an optimistic book that reflects a side of me that is always looking for beauty and positivity everywhere. And it all came from a very simple but honest idea quickly jotted down.

So even while you may be feeling scattered and stressed, listen to the ideas that bubble up. For me, these quick thoughts are often unguarded and honest, so they truly express something important to me. Something with deep possibilities and meaning. Some jotted down notes come back to me as I think of them again and again – that’s one way I know that THIS idea demands attention. That it just might become a book. But some of the best ideas are those I’ve quickly forgotten until I looked back at some scribblings.

So journal. Keep a notebook and pen by your bedside to capture your early morning dreamy ideas. Go for a walk and immediately record with your phone an idea right as it comes to you, before it flutters away.

Gray coverIdeas do indeed flutter away unless they are caught and looked at. There’s something there. Some piece of you that is honest and true. Collect these thoughts and review them from time to time to see where the inspiration will take you.

It’s a small but important way to be creative, even when you are very stressed. Even when you find it hard to be productive as a writer.

And, it just might just become your next book.

*Marie is an author of YA novels and of picture books, and she’s a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

 

Agent Monday: Nurturing the Creative Side

Colored PencilsHi gang!  Happy Agent Monday to you all.  I almost forget it WAS Monday. I woke up early and quickly got swept into doing different stuff. Emailing this. Reading that. Responding to the other…  Doesn’t that happen to everyone? You get all tied up in the goings on of the day and then before you know it? Time has passed. As a writer as well as an agent, I know this phenomenon all too well. In the taking-care-of-business mode, we keep up with deadlines, but it is easy to neglect the creative side. The side that doesn’t necessarily have a deadline, but that defines us as writers. So, while this column is often dedicated to the business side of a writer’s life, today I’d like to chat a little about nurturing the creative side.

How do you as a writer keep yourself disciplined? It can be hard when it isn’t your full-time job and you are squeezing it in between life. But it can also be hard when it IS your full-time job. It’s not just discipline that’s the problem. Sure, you need to be self-motivating as all get-out in order to write a book from start to finish even though there isn’t a guaranteed contract waiting at the end of it.

But what if you are self-disciplined, yet you just can’t seem to hit your creative sweet spot and write anything new that you feel is meaningful? At some point every writer has probably been there. Let’s not say you’ve hit a writer’s block, because, honestly, I don’t believe in that. But what you may need is to retrain yourself in the way you approach your work. To renew your creative spirit. To reconnect with your own personal joy of writing and to separate it from the “gotta write to the market if I want to get published” pressure you may be squeezing yourself under.

Yeah, be aware of the market, but then set that aside and be true to who you are as a writer. Create what you truly believe in if you are a creative writer. That really is the path to satisfaction.

So if you aren’t creating anything new, and haven’t in a while, maybe it’s time to pause and take better care of your creative self.

Many of us pro writers spend countless hours each week doing things that are writing-related, and even necessary, but in the end don’t add anything creative to our inventory.  Necessary things like marketing existing work, building platform, networking, teaching and leading workshops, etc.  You can fill the entire week with this stuff and tell yourself that you are a busy writer…but have you written anything? And many writers at all levels are on an endless treadmill of taking care of others and doing our day jobs, etc.

Paint BottlesBut still, you need to hit the pause button and look closely at your day and your life, and to make time for your creative self to flourish. Maybe you wake up an hour earlier than your family and spend that time journaling, or you take a brisk walk at lunchtime with a notebook in hand and jot down what comes to mind, or you schedule a sacred writing time where someone covers for you at home and you escape to somewhere to put words on paper.

It doesn’t have to become a novel or even a short story.  Your efforts just need you to reconnect with your creative self and to take a mental deep breath. Then the words can flow. Ideas and stories will come if you make space for them.

To that end, a few author friends of mine have just cobbled together a “creativity group” where we will meet every two weeks, not to talk marketing or plotting or to crit eachother’s works, but to explore ways to nurture our own creative selves in a way that will help our own writing flow better.  We’ll be working through exercises in the classic book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron to see what might click, and setting our own goals to follow in between meetings. One thing that really clicked with me was when one friend mentioned having a spot that is just for writing, not editing or anything else. A creative spot.

I really like that idea, and I’m already shifting things around at home to set up just such a spot – something cozy and private that has room beside it for me to set down a proper cup of Earl Grey tea.

Little Girl Drawing in ClassYour creative side deserves attention and nurturing, whether you give it a brisk morning walk every day or a lovely leather journal to expand in. Or perhaps you should set up your own creative group with fellow writers and artists. Give your creative side time and thought and care. And if you have ideas that have worked for you, or books that you’d recommend to others who need a creative boost, please feel to share these here in the comments.

Let’s all take care of our creative spirits and let them grow!

 

*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City.  To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s site here” link located on her page on the upper left margin.