Last post I talked about how I’ve (more or less) come to terms with the fact that there are certain phases of my life (ie: pregnancy) where I don’t have the physical, mental or emotional energy left over for writing. What few resources I have are given over to taking care of my family (I have two under four! and a husband who needs some wifely companionship every now and again) and that’s just as it should be. I have learned to shake a stick at the Specter of Writer’s Guilt that insists that a REAL writer would find the time and space and energy to write. (Of course, a REAL writer would be under contract and making money from advances and royalties, too, but we won’t go into the rest of my insecurities right now).
This time I want to talk about how I keep that writing spark, that yearning for making and telling stories, alive during my Zombie Times.
First off, lots and lots of reading. While the Year of the Zombie is a time of guilt-free not-writing, it is also a time of guilt-free READING. I read in my genre, outside my genre, and wildly outside my genre. All kinds of fiction teach me about the craft of writing. All kinds of non-fiction give me content that I can sink my teeth into: premises to follow to wild conclusions, nuances of politics and society and economics to give my worlds that extra edge of realism, character complexity. This pregnancy, my reading has ranged from fantasy (Sherwood Smith, Robin Hobb, Diana Wynne Jones) to biographies of Revolutionary heroes to books I pulled off the library shelves “just because”. And picture books. Lots and lots of picture books. (You may think that I do it just for my children, but I assure you picture books are my secret weapon in the mad scramble to get published–and wouldn’t you like to know why!).
Secondly, continuing to daydream. Sitting in the car, lying awake in bed, taking a shower–I let my mind wander freely from character to character, story idea to story idea. Stories that I would have otherwise rejected as being too bizarre, too out-of-genre, too hard for my current skills have grown and blossomed to the point where they actually have made it into my to-write queue.
Keeping in touch with the writing community. Writing is a such a solitary pursuit and, as a stay-at-home mom, I often feel so disconnected that it really helps to keep up with writing blogs and forums. Just knowing that someone out there is writing, revising, submitting, angsting, rejoicing, being published keeps that fire alive in me. (So keep blogging all you writers out there!)
Tinkering with already-written short stories. I have no brain for original work, but I can revise and edit and submit some of my shorts. I came to this strategy late–but it has gained me two acceptances and one rewrite request in the last month. Wonder why it took so long for me to get to those…
Writing exercises. More on that later, but I discovered one writing prompt that has worked really really well for me. It hasn’t led to any story ideas, but it has given me insight into the themes and metaphors that keep cropping up again and again in my work.