Thursday, October 18, 2018

4 Reasons Why Fall is a Great Time for Writers and 5 Quotes for Inspiration

Fall is a great time for writers. Here are three reasons why this season recharges my soul.

1. Step outside and the senses are sharpened.  Sight, Touch, Taste, Smell, Sounds - those key tools in a writer's toolbox are quickly awakened. 

With the rush of cool air across the skin or into the lungs, with the bright colors changing across the landscape from morning to night, with both new and familiar smells of foods offered up at regional harvest festivals, there is an invigorating sense of a larger world around us and our connections to it.

2. Along with this seasonal realigning of the senses also comes a sense of urgency in both tackling new projects or wrapping up old ones as the holidays bob on the horizon.  Writers and illustrators have 2 different community challenges available to participate in during the fall season: Inktober and NaNoWriMo

I've loved watching the sketches done by my illustrator friends show up in my social media feeds during Inktober. Getting a glimpse of their talent from day to day is another kind of inspiration for the creative spirit.

3. The swift transitions in weather and temperature can offer unexpected surprises - both good and bad. Experiencing them reminds me of getting beyond the climax of a good book and on the way to a satisfying ending.

Brisk mornings that unwind into pleasant, warm afternoons remind us to take hold of opportunity when it presents itself because soon the warmer temperatures will lead to cooler ones at night. Although cooler nighttime temperatures can offer their own rewards - a warm fire in the hearth, a cozy blanket on the sofa, a cup of hot tea or cider steaming beneath our lips.

4. As the year's end approaches, the Fall season offers a final opportunity to readjust and establish goals. I write both picture books and middle grade novels, and this November I plan on jumping into NaNoWriMo to spur myself on to finishing a novel that I've already started. I've got a bit of a head start, so call me a cheater, but I prefer to think of it as having my course already scouted and mapped. The big trick will be sitting down daily to reach the final destination. But I am already beginning to get tingled with the anticipation of working through it.

Here are some great quotes from writers that I like to believe were inspired by interactions with nature.

"The bluebird carries the sky on its back." - Henry David Thoreau

"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars." - Walt Whitman

"Never lose an opportunity to see anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all." - Emily Dickinson

"If you look the right way, you can see the whole world is a garden." - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Happy writing!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Lists: A Tool in Writing and Life

Years ago I attended a presentation by children's author Claudia Mills on the art of keeping lists. From what I recall, Claudia is an ardent list maker and list keeper. She has journals of lists of all sorts. The fascinating thing is that she never throws a list away -- even when she has reached the end of a to-do list with each item neatly crossed off because she regards her lists like a journal, or a time capsule of things she has done or was planning to do.

Lists are not only a useful tool for navigating daily living. They are a useful tool for writers. There are so many ways that lists can be used. In an online conference yesterday, I learned that even author David Shannon makes lists to improve the books he is working on.

Although I am sure we all know what a list can be, here is a list of possible lists that you might find useful.

1. Character names and their traits
2. Things to fix in a manuscript as you read through a draft - this will keep you from slowing down when you want a general scope of how a story arc is shaping up.
3. Tasks to get done for the professional side of your work
4. Tasks for the personal side of your life
5. Brainstorm lists, like for titles of your next book that is ready to submit
6. Books you would like to read
7. Resolution lists that include healthy habits
8. Shopping lists that include chocolate (mine always include chocolate)
9. Favorite authors
10. Favorite artists
11. Motivational songs
12. Types of settings or places you come across that seem interesting
13. Favorite quotes
etc etc etc

Of course, as writer Lauren Laverne points out, lists may help keep our priorities in perspective and give us a sense of control, many of the best and most interesting things in life happen by accident and without any planning....

Happy unplanned things like:

sharing a smile with a stranger or a good laugh with a friend,
helping yourself to another slice of the perfect apple pie for dessert,
or taking a long awaited call out of the blue in the middle of the day in the middle of sentence you were just speaking....

Certainly none of these things were on anyone's list for their day. The unplanned pleasant surprises make life worth living.

So make your lists and remember to refer back to them, but keep your soul planted firmly in the present and the people you love keeping close.