Inspiration and Advice for Writers from Writers

I found an awesome resource that I think I’d like to pick through over at brainpickings.org.

The irony is that I often find myself being inspired about writing when I should be writing. Do any of you do that?

In any case, I’ll try to carve out a time once a week or so to learn from the greats. And, above all, I’ll make it my priority to write.

How do I do that with all my kids at home? There’s the real mystery.

Progress on My Book

I’m making some progress on a work in progress. I’m writing a Halloween book about a witch and her black cat. It is a lot of fun!

The text is actually already finished. Now, I’m just working on the illustrations. Here are a few sneak peaks of the sketches. Next step, I’ll sketch again with color. Then I will make a final, finished version of each picture.

From the Kitchen of Velma Von Stinkle by Catania Larson

Working, Working

I feel pretty happy these days about my direction and what I want to do.

For now, I’m going to try a “two pronged approach” in writing and publishing. I’ll be trying my hand at both traditional publishing and self-publishing. I have already self published a few times using blurb. It has been a positive experience. I have also self-published on Lulu. It has also been a good experience.

For the most part, I have self published these books because I want them.

As I’m getting more serious about being a published author, I have decided that I want to go the traditional route, too. I have been submitting, and I’ve been being rejected. I guess that means I’m on the right path.

The good thing about rejection is that you can learn from it. I’ve been learning about how to tweak my writing and about my approach in general. I’ve decided that, for now (this is always subject to change), I’ll be self-publishing books that I write and illustrate. I like making picture books for my children, and I want them to have the books now.

I also want to submit work to publishers. The work I submit will be for older audiences (middle grade…ya…maybe adult. It just depends on which project I finish first. 🙂

So…It’s nice to have some direction, and here is a sneak peak of an illustration for my next book. Fun!

Cute!
Cute!

Back in the Saddle

Okay. It’s been a while. I’ve got all sorts of excuses.

1) Teaching BYU-Idaho. That really used up a ton of my time recently.
2) Homeschooling—I had to get everything ready. We are now homeschooling. I know it is the right thing to do, but I still sometimes wonder if I’m crazy.
3) My hands were covered in a horrible eczema rash then allergic reaction, and I could not even type. It was horrible and disgusting, and I’m now going through my second two week round of Prednisone. My hands are working again. I can play the piano, crochet, type, play guitar, cook, and well, do everything again. It is really, really nice. I’m grateful for my hands.

Plenty of Rejections…

Even though I haven’t been actively keeping up this blog in the past two months, and even though I haven’t been writing as much as I should, and as I promise to do, things have been going…I’ve gotten five more rejections. I’m deciding to be happy about that.

Actually, three of the rejections have taught me something really important.

…and why that’s not a bad thing.

These rejections have been teaching me something really important. They are helping me to clue in to who I am and what I want.

I entered two contests, and they were with fiction/writing periodicals. I wrote a memoir for one, which was a very therapeutic thing to do, so that’s good…right? I also wrote a piece of fiction (from the point of view of a child) for the other. I really love that piece. I’m pretty sure that others would, too. This rejection reminded me that I need to find the right venue for it. Audience matters… you know?!

I’m pretty sure that I want to focus on children’s literature right now. I’m not sure that’s all I want to do, and I’m not necessarily saying that I want to get in on the YA action. It’s just that I have kids. I want them to have good books to read.

I was inspired and moved by books when I was younger.

This is the kind of fiction I’ve been writing lately, and then I’m wondering why I’m facing rejection when I’m submitting to periodicals that publish things a little bit more…mature. Duh!

…Sooooooo

So…I’m back in the saddle. School has started up. I’m forcing myself to take time for myself. And I’m trying to be more honest. Instead of looking for acceptance from an academic MFA type of publication, I’m going to focus on Children’s lit. It’s a no-brainer, I know…but for me it took a bit of a beat down (rejection-wise) to figure that one out.

Fail Early and Fail Fast

I’ve just read the book Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull (of Pixar). First of all, I’ll just say that the book was fascinating.

I want to include an excerpt that I find intriguing – especially when I apply it to my own creative pursuits.

“For most of us, failure comes with baggage–a lot of baggage– that I believe is traced directly back to our days in school. From a very early age, the message is drilled into our heads: Failure is bad; failure means you didn’t study or prepare; failure means you slacked off or – worse! – aren’t smart enough to begin with. Thus, failure is something to be ashamed of. This perception lives on long into adulthood, even in people who have learned to parrot the oft-repeated arguments about the upside of failure. How many articles have you read on that topic alone? And yet, even as they nod their heads in agreement, many readers of those articles still have the emotional reaction that they had as children. They just can’t help it: That early experience of shame is too deep-seated to erase. All the time in my work, I see people resist and reject failure and try mightily to avoid it, because regardless of what we say, mistakes feel embarrassing. There is a visceral reaction to failure: it hurts.

We need to think about failure differently. I’m not the first to say that failure, when approached properly, can be an opportunity for growth. But the way most people interpret this assertion is that mistakes are a necessary evil. Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality). And yet, even as I say that embracing failure is an important part of learning, I also acknowledge that acknowledging this truth is not enough. That’s because failure is painful, and our feelings about hits pain tend to screw up our understanding of its worth. To disentangle the good and the bad parts of failure, we have to recognize both the reality of the pain and the benefit of the resulting growth.

Left to their own devices, most people don’t want to fail. But Andrew Stanton isn’t most people. As I’ve mentioned, he’s known around Pixar for repeating the phrases ‘fail early and fail fast’ and ‘be wrong as fast as you can.’ He thinks of failure like learning to ride a bike; it isn’t conceivable that you would learn to do this without making mistakes–without toppling over a few times. ‘Get a bike that’s as low to the ground as you can find, put on elbow and knee pads so you’re not afraid of falling, and go,’ he says. If you apply this mindset to everything new you attempt, you can begin to subvert the negative connotations associated with making mistakes. Says Andrew: ‘You wouldn’t say to somebody who is first learning to play the guitar, “You better think really hard about where you put your fingers on the guitar neck before you strum, because you only get to strum once, and that’s it. And if you get that wrong, we’re going to move on.” That’s no way to learn is it?'” – Ed Catmull Creativity, Inc.

I realize that’s a long quote. It’s a 500-word quote! Okay. It’s not a quote, it’s an excerpt. But I love it. Really. Reading this book made me think, How can I get a job at Pixar. I want to be a part of the Braintrust… – Okay. That’s beside the point.

I love this quote because I’m afraid of failure.

Wait. Scratch that. I’m not afraid of failure. I’m afraid of rejection. Fear of failure plays into that because I am afraid that If I fail, then I’ll be rejected as a human being.

I need to address this fear the right way.

1) There is always a chance that I’ll be rejected. This has no bearing on my value or worth as an individual. I need to stop worrying about that.

2) Worrying about failure is actually causing me to fail worse than if I would accept failure, and then fail as quickly as I can.

Recently, I started writing a short story. I am not sure exactly where it’s going, but I know that I want it to be about anger and surfing. I’ve been troubled by writing this even though I really like the themes/questions that I want to answer by writing this piece.

I think that I’m having a hard time writing it because it is hard work, and I’m worried I won’t do a good job answering the question. So I waffle and put off writing. The thing is, by waffling, I’m still not answering the question.

So – today, I embraced the idea of failure. Failure means I’m progressing. Do I love it? No. Do I get a little pissed off when things aren’t really going the way I think that I want them to? Yes. But, these failures all add up to success later. I can’t expect to ride a bike without falling down a few times. It’s okay to make a mistakes. It’s okay to fail. I will just keep propelling myself forward, and when I fail, I’ll use those experiences to keep moving.

What do you do to stave off the fear of failure? How has failure benefitted you in your creative endeavors?

June Goals

I’ve figured out my goals. They might be too lofty. I don’t really know. I don’t really care. These are the goals:

1) Submit an original story to Ploughshares. I’m hoping to have it be at around 5,000 words.
2) Submit to Hoot. This will also be original work, but it is really short, so I think I can do it. It will be a fun challenge.
3) Submit poetry to Asheville Poetry Review.
4) Enter another contest.
5) Continue to work on novel.

That seems like a lot, but most of the stuff I’ve already been working on, so for the most part, original content will be done for my novel.

I’m excited to work! I should have made my goals on June 1.

Do you have goals?

June Means new Goals

Well, it’s a new month, which means new goals. I don’t have a goal yet. Well, not a specific one. I want to work on of of my novels and I want to submit something. That’s all I’m writing for now because I keep falling asleep.

Submissions, Submissions

Well, yesterday I met my goal for May. I submitted to the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers. I wrote a short story, obviously, about a girl, a boy, riding bikes, and Eastern Diamond-back Rattlesnakes. We’ll find out how it does in a few months.

I also submitted to the Baltimore Review writing contest. I submitted a Creative Non-Fiction piece on How to Make a Red Sauce.

I like both of my submissions.

I’m happy about reaching my goals.

Hopefully I’ll have good news to report later.

Research and Concerts Part Two

I went to the concert on Friday night.

First of all, the craziest thing happened. On Wednesday, I, stupidly, walked my daughter to an activity 1.6 miles away from my house. We were running a few minutes late, so I decided to shrug off common sense and wear my brand new shoes without socks. Dumb. I knew I’d pay for it, but I’m a runner, and I’ve had blisters millions of times. No big deal.

After getting home that night, the blisters were no big deal. On Thursday they were in a little pain – I mean, I had four big blisters. But they just felt like four big blisters. Then on Thursday evening, they started to hurt. I mean, really they hurt. Oh, I should probably mention that 1) I drained my blisters with a needle that I didn’t take the time to sterilize; 2) After draining the blisters, I didn’t bother putting band-aids on them, and then went to the library, supermarket, and all sorts of other errands wearing flip-flops. (Dumb, dumb, dumb).

Later on in the evening, my foot started to hurt very badly. In about 45 minutes, my toe went from totally normal, if only a little pinkish, to a dark, angry red. It was throbbing and swollen. Something wasn’t right. I kept trying to drain the blister, I soaked it. I was getting worried. I couldn’t even walk on my foot. Instead of feeling like I had a blister, I felt like I’d had my pinky toe smashed by a hammer.

My husband was out, and when he got home, I told him that something was wrong with my foot. Usually, I ignore common sense and little messages from my body (obviously). The pain had grown to the point where I realized, “maybe my body is trying to tell me something.” yeah.

I called a friend of mine who is an artist and a nurse. She agreed (at 9:44 PM) to let me come over so she could look at my feet.
“They are pretty mad. Not completely angry, but very mad,” She told me. She instructed me to soak them in salt, put this Mom’s Stuff Salve on them, and then wrap them up. She also told me that if they started itching or if the redness expanded, then to go to the emergency room.
“I think you caught it just in time,” she explained.

So, I did as she instructed and went home. The entire time I was thinking, “I better be able to get to the concert on Friday night!!!” (One of my friends had an infection recently on her hand – MRSA or something – and she had to be admitted into the hospital for a few days. I think that I caught my infection in enough time for my body to heal without the aid of super-antibiotics.

Okay. The point is: I nearly missed my concert because I’m too lazy to get a pair of socks and too lazy to sterilize needles.

Even though my feet were killing me, I was able to go to the symphony. I felt foolish because I was wearing flip flops, but at that point my feet hurt more than my pride did. I couldn’t put on a shoe. Two more of my blisters had gotten infected, so my feet were just killing me.

Just ONE of my blisters - more than 48 hours after medicating began...still red and painful, but way way way better.
Just ONE of my blisters – more than 48 hours after medicating began…still red and painful, but way way way better.

I’m so glad I was able to go to the concert. It was perfect. I took a notebook with me, and took every note I could. I feel like my hyper-awareness actually made the experience better for me. In fact, I think that I’m going to choose to take fewer pictures of my experiences. The idea of taking a picture seems like a nice way to honor/remember the experience. However, we remember less of it when we are busy snapping pictures. It is my feeling that taking pictures of a sunset turns us into a “consumer” of the experience rather than a first hand “experiencer.”

Not sure if that makes sense to you, but it does to me.

***

All in all, the experience was great. Watching these artists was inspiring. I will never be a regular/obsessed concert goer, ironically enough. I mean, I play the piano – a lot and rather well. But, I’ve realized that regular classical concerts might not be my thing. Occasional ones, yes. But I doubt I’ll ever be a season ticket holder. (Again it has to do with the consumption/production thing. This is major for me.)

Anyway – go do your research. It can be fun. You might learn something. And don’t be dumb. Wear socks. Sterilize your instruments. Don’t get infected blisters. 🙂