Any author can tell you, there are many ups and downs to writing. Like any career, there are victories and defeats of many shapes and sizes, some that dump you right on your ass. When I began writing, I thought all I needed was to publish a book, and I would be set. If only I could whack myself upside the head, I would. I celebrated my first contract, rightly so, but signing a contract is only the beginning.
One day, I’m frustrated with a marketing problem, the next I’m celebrating a positive review. Some days, writing makes me feel bi-polar like I’m on a roller coaster that I just can’t get off. Yet, that is life, good, bad, and ugly. We dance in the rain and when it starts to hail pull out the umbrella.
I write because I love it, and most writers I know feel the same way. It reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s quote about love:
This is writing in a nutshell, if you really love it. We go through the anxiety, depression or discouragement, because our love of writing drives us to keep going. The love of art pushes us to create. Hopefully, we have some good friends to pick us up along the way.
In all art forms, there is a thin line between creativity and constraint. As artists, we all want to push that envelope, to create a unique story or piece of art, to let our mind be free and uninhibited. That is why I create. Those few moments of bliss in creating something you love.
But as an artist that wants to make a paycheck and to be marketable in this economy, there has to be some constraints. For writing, you need to learn the technique and grammar needed to sell a book.
“Paradoxically, creativity thrives on the tension between freedom and constraint,” says Brent Rosso, an organizational psychology professor at Montana State University. “They’re the yin and yang of creativity.”
Remember though, the individual artist is the negotiator of this balance and always has the final decision. I think of my muse as a beautiful little monster whose creativity needs to be feed with freedom and exercised with restraint. Here are a couple things I use to keep my muse well feed and in check.
- Have a trusted writing group whose feedback I trust. They will let you know when you get too far off the beaten path.
- Give myself permission to fail. This may be the hardest one yet. Shut the door to the peanut gallery. Do your thing, and if you believe in it that’s all that matters. Experience is sometimes the best teacher.
- Try new things, whether writing in a new point of view or possibly a new genre or prose. Try your hand at poetry or short story maybe. Even drawing or coloring can open creative pathways. Don’t be afraid to try.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite sayings. I look at it often as I’m now finishing up edits on book two of my The Dark Rising series.