If you weren’t able to attend our last meet-up, you missed a great discussion, not to mention some of the loveliest cupcakes ever baked!
After the usual introductions, we had an animated discussion about writing and illustrating with joy. How do you maintain the enjoyment and pleasure of the craft while trying to get published and or earn a living or part of a living from doing what you love?
To begin with, I quoted award-winning author Jane Yolen, who wrote Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft. This is a woman who’s published over 300 books. I think she knows what she’s talking.
I asked the group if they had ever stopped writing or illustrating. What made them stop? How did they get started again? I used the example from Jane Benson McLoughlin’s blog posts of her own experiences of stopping and starting to write again.
Then we discussed our tools for survival – all the ways we use to keep enjoying what we do.
Getting support so we don’t feel isolated while we fumble along include:
- critique groups where we can share our work, get feedback, and continue to improve our skills in a supportive environment
- membership in organizations like Childrens Books Ireland or SCBWI where we can learn more about the industry, network with other writers and illustrators as well as teachers, librarians, and industry folks, and generally get really excited about children’s books
- online forums where we can talk with other like-minded writers or illustrators about our work
- conferences where we can hobnob with other writers and illustrators and talk endlessly and with great enthusiasm about children’s books
- meet-ups, writing groups, social events, any other excuse for getting together with other writers and illustrators to talk shop
Tricks for enjoying the writing or illustrating process include:
- Using music to tune out the world while working. Some people preferred absolute silence, others preferred to use the hubbub of writing in a public place for inspiration and white noise
- Getting away from technology was a way to stay inspired. Writing by hand under a tree or drawing on a sketchpad in the corner of an art gallery can be very inspiring.
- Do something you find interesting as way to get inspired, come up with new ideas, or to distract your conscious mind so that the subconscious can work away at solving a design or plot puzzle.
Tips for holding yourself accountable without judging yourself to stick to your goals or when you’re not having a productive period include:
- Get rid of guilt. There are so many things going on in our lives at any given moment, we need to give ourselves permission to stop writing or illustrating while we prioritize other elements in our lives. When we’re ready, we can start back again with enjoyment rather than feeling like we “HAVE TO” or “SHOULD” be doing it.
- Weekly word counts are helpful for some people who like to use a set target to motivate them. It can become a personal challenge to meet the target, which can be fun if you approach it with the right frame of mind rather than seeing it as yet another thing that needs to be done.
- To do lists are also helpful for people like me who have learned a project management style or like to keep a tally of completed tasks. This can be very satisfying if the list has realistic, achievable goals. There is a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment as you cross another item off the list.
- Wall charts as suggested by a participant as another way to track the progress of your project and keep you motivated.
There were a number of references or inspirational resources mentioned by various participants. I’ve listed a few of them here:
- Amy Tan:”Where does creativity hide?” (video on TED Talks)
- Nicola Morgan: Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed (book), Heartsong (blog)
- Maggie Stiefvater: Lament and Ballad (books)
- Jackson Pearce: Publishing 101 (video on YouTube)
- Rory’s story cubes (game)
- Sarah Rees Brennan: Demon’s Lexicon trilogy (books)
- Scrivener, writing and project management software for Mac and Windows
So you don’t think we’re imaginary, here is a photo of the group who met up in April.
You’d be well advised to attend future meet-ups as there’s almost always hand-made chocolates and home-baked goodies!