Monday, May 20, 2013

Springtime Update

We're just back from the first beach I've been to where the water was blue and the sand was white. Jonathan said it looked like a Corona commercial, and that pretty much captures it, minus the Corona. In my last blog post, I listed 10 things that inspire me to write. I managed to do 6 of those in one week at the beach and have now decided that (relatively) local travel is something easy to come by and should be taken advantage of as often as I need a refreshing point of view and can get away. Since I haven't got the ocean in my back yard, there's always something wild and inspiring about it. I suspect there are other wild and inspiring things to be experienced all around me.

But home has its inspiration too, like the critique group I recently joined that's made up of grad school friends who are brilliant at knowing and expressing what's working and not working in a story. After getting and giving critiques, however, I've been reminded how random and stupid the creative process can be. For example, I've been working on one particular story for going on seven years now. It's the story that got me to dedicate a chunk of my life to children's literature, the story I used as my thesis project, and the story I've shopped around and gotten rejected so many times I've lost count. After the last rejection, I shelved it as "the one that didn't work out." But I love this story, so I sent it to my brilliant critique group who fortunately had the same reaction as everyone else, which led me to make a last sad attempt at getting the to story work by switching it from third to first person. To my surprise, things started clicking. The readers made the connections they were supposed to. The characters and plot made (more) sense. The story was officially brought off the shelf! That's why I now fully believe the creative process is often dumb luck, because I didn't really change things thinking it would make a difference--I changed them out of desperation. Maybe that just means I'm not a very good storyteller, but lots of beautiful stuff has been created out of desperation, so I suspect it means creation is partly on purpose and partly on accident and that the accidents are where the magic happens.

The other inspiration here at home is my first official and paid editing job of a complete novel. It gives me the chance to edit a story all the way through on multiple levels (grammar as well as style and storytelling). This not only helps the writer, it helps the editor who's a wanna-be writer, like me! It's true what they say: seeing what works and doesn't work in a story is easier when you're reading someone else's words instead of your own. That's why critiquing is one of the most practical, hands-on things a writer can do to get better at writing, aside from reading good books.

The thing I'm not doing lately is working on the story I should have been working on for the past two months in preparation for the writing course I was supposed to do two years ago but am only just getting around to this coming September, which, in spite of my being a slacker, I'm getting really excited about. With three months or so to get the September project through at least a first draft, I should probably be doing that instead of blogging. Alas, I like to blog. Blogging clears my brain and sorts my mess and helps me figure out what I need to do next. For now, that's preparing two classes for this week, grading a pile of stuff I ignored during my time at the beach, and pretending calories don't matter as I eat tacos for dinner and buttered popcorn for dessert and sit on the porch with my husband and my dog and let the sun distract me for just a minute more. After all, they won't all be sunny days.