After giving birth to my first child, I turned away from my creative life. A brand new mother with a screaming colicky baby, I had no time, or brain power, to write the way I once did. Time passed, and what began as a necessity turned into a habit.
It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Life gets messy and we pack away the wild, vital pieces of ourselves in order to tend to the crisis at hand. But sometimes, after it passes, we forget to go back. The boxes remain sealed, gathering dust.
This month long series, Unpacking Your Creative Life, will get you back on the page in four simple steps:
- Find your lost boxes
- Open and organize
- Tap into your creativity
- Share and reach out
Maybe it’s been months or years since you wrote. Perhaps you never had a chance to begin, but you’re finally feeling brave enough to try. You’re in the right place.
I remember when my daughter was about a year old, I finally emerged from my baby fog, shaky and disoriented. After many false starts with stories and essays, I decided to try writing a young adult novel.
Don’t smack me, but for some reason I thought it would be easier than writing for grown ups. Turns out I was wrong. I sent a few chapters to an editor friend and she was kind, but honest. Overwhelmed by how much work my story needed, I gave up.
In retrospect, I think I was trying to sneak back in. I wanted to take a side door and pop through the other side a writer again. But writing is hard work. It takes persistence and dedication, no matter your audience or genre.
What I needed first was to reconnect to my love of writing. I needed to remember, in my body, in my bones, what that passion felt like.
A couple years and a new baby later, I signed up for a local writing conference on a whim. After two days of panels, editor Q&A’s, and agent meetings, I was electrified. Though I didn’t know anyone there, I felt a kinship with the hundreds of other writers, all of us coming together for the same reason. Something shifted inside me right then and there, and I returned home invigorated and ready to try again.
Attending a conference is just one option. Here are five other ways to dig into the roots of your writing life:
Go to author readings
Listening to writers you admire read their work and answer questions is inspiring. Also, since they’re often held in bookstores and libraries you’ll be in good company surrounded by fellow book lovers.
Home school yourself
Read a book about craft. There are plenty to choose from (see below for suggestions). Listen to writing podcasts or subscribe to blogs with positive and affirming messages, like this one!
Sign up for a writing class
Libraries and bookstores often offer classes for free or at reasonable prices. You can also check community colleges, or if you’d rather not leave the comfort of your home, look online. Stay tuned to this space for news of the upcoming TGOW Write your Story class, to be launched this fall.
Join a writing group
Make sure you find people who are at a similar level, or just a step above so you feel supported and not diminished. If you can’t find one, consider starting your own! It could be as simple as a Facebook group, or meeting up with a few writer friends at a café.
Go back to the beginning
Think about what books sparked your love of stories and reread them. Grab a highlighter and underline your favorite passages or jot them down in a notebook. Pull out your old journals and, with kindness, honor the person you once were.
No need to limit yourself to words. Music, art, and nature can also jumpstart inspiration and nurture creativity. Writing isn’t just about sitting at a desk with a computer; it’s about observing and exploring, both the internal and external world. Go for a hike in the woods or stroll along the ocean, see a concert or an art exhibit.
Open up your creative line. Listen for the hum. Tune in. Take notes.
Creativity is like a muscle that strengthens and expands with use. Take it slow at first and be gentle with yourself. It takes time to warm up, to find your way back.
What are some of the reasons you’ve put your writing aside, either currently or in your past? Share in the comments.
In Part 2, it’s time to open up those dusty boxes and get organized. Cast out what no longer serves you, and then get ready to create new routines and rituals to keep your creativity alight.
*A few of my favorite writing books: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (wise and nurturing), Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (dense but magical), The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (a writer’s boot camp), On Writing by Stephen King (anecdotal and practical).