Looking Back on the Journey

This past Sunday I attended the Writers’ Coffeehouse held at the Willow Grove Barnes & Noble. I always enjoy the meetings, for the information and for the camaraderie. There is undeniably something energizing about being in a room full of people who share the same passion as I do.

But another thing I enjoy is seeing the people in different stages of their journeys. I, of course, learn a lot from people who are farther along in their journeys than me. But I also love meeting people at the beginning of their journey. I remember being there, and not so long ago.

I see their awe at being in a group with authors who have actually published real books. I see their jaws drop as they comprehend the mountain of craft they have yet to climb. I see their eyes glaze at the amount of business information they need to learn. I see the bewildered look that comes with wondering if all this work is really worth it. And then I see the true joy at realizing that they are among kindred spirits and that we all started exactly where they are.

When I see the newcomers, I realize just how far I have come in my journey. No longer the newbie, I am in the middle of the pack—not multi-published, but with a book coming out next year. I still have a great deal to lean about the craft and business of writing, and I am happy that I have the resource of the Liars Club Coffeehouses and classes to continue my education.

There are many benefits to being part of a writing community. I have long appreciated the benefit of learning from those further along the journey. But this week I noted the benefit of looking behind at those just coming in. Because in looking back, I can see how far I have come. This gives me confidence that I can go the rest of the way.

When I started, the place I am in my journey seemed far distant, nearly unreachable, almost unimaginable.

Yet I am here.

Where will I be in another few years?

I’m excited to find out.

The journey continues.

Where are you in your journey?

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Inspiration for the Muse…and for the Journey

At the Writer’s Coffeehouse last month, we discussed inspiration—where we find it and how we hang on to it. What I found is that there are two different types of inspiration: the Muse kind and the long-term kind.

We are used to thinking of inspiration as “how do I get my Muse to talk to me?” or how to get into your flow state as a writer. We all do need something to move us from the mundane brain to the creative brain, so we all have our inspirations, whether it be a saying or a magic pencil or a Lego figure.

But writers who are in this for the long haul also need inspiration to keep us going through the rough patches. Like when the words aren’t flowing, but the rejections are. Or when the day job takes over your life and squeezes your writing time to nil. Or when your family demands more of your time than usual. Or when health concerns crop up. Or even when things are going well but you have more things to juggle than you can fit in a 24-hour period.

What inspires you for the long haul? Is it still your quote or magic pencil or Lego figure? Do you trade up to a unicorn or a favorite book or a person who inspires you? Or do you have some other way of getting through the rough times?

I’ll be honest—when I looked for things that inspired my Muse, I was a little stumped. Which may explain why (in spite of turning out a lot of work) I have felt lost in a creative desert for the past 4 years. I did eventually remember a bookmark that I still have (and of course cannot find at the moment) from childhood. A unicorn glitters on the front, and it says, “Some things have to be believed to be seen.” Which I believed as a child, and still believe today.

As for my long-term inspirations…well, I found three. The first are the Coffeehouses and workshops and conferences I attend. They always fire me up and get the juices flowing. But they are like booster shots—temporary pick-me-ups that don’t last very long.

The second is something Lois Duncan once said. I have a preschooler at home, and she has sucked energy and time from me (as small children will). Sometimes I despair of ever getting any writing done. Then I remember that Lois Duncan wrote most of her most popular books while raising FIVE small children. She talked once about typing a manuscript (on a typewriter) with a baby in her lap. So I figure if she could do it with five, I can find a way to manage with one!

The third inspiration is not so much inspiration as sheer stubbornness. When things get rough, I simply put my head down and plow ahead. I try to learn more craft along the way, so I am at least plowing in the right direction. Some call it tenacity or endurance, but I think I’m just too pig-headed to quit. I’ve come so far, I refuse to simply walk away. I also think my life-long anxiety disorder has shaped this method of coping. There are so many things in my daily life that spark my anxiety, I long ago found that the only way through was to grit my teeth and just plunge ahead. So I do. Every day. For all sorts of things. It is no surprise, then, that when faced with obstacles in my writing life, I do the same thing.

So those are some of the things that I find inspiring. How about you? What drives you when things get tough?

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