Creative ebb, practical flow

seedling sprouting from soil

When I first started to write again a couple of years ago, it was amazing. It felt like the tap would never turn off. The ideas flowed free and plentiful, and it was bliss. That lasted throughout last year’s layoff, when I spent my summer working on a novella that would become my longest work to date.

This summer the mood is fairly substantially different. I’ve spent a fair amount of time taking care of practical business, including:

  • Back matter for Raccoon Rescue: a “curriculum connection” guide, extension activities, and other assorted material.
  • Revisions for the novella I first wrote last summer. It was accepted to be published by Running Wild Press sometime this fall, and I’ve put a fair amount of time and effort into polishing it.
  • Polishing short stories that I’d finished last winter and spring. A big part of this process is engaging sensitivity readers, via Justina Ireland’s Write in the Margins, to ensure I haven’t let any unknown biases or lack of awareness about some of my characters of color creep into my work. I believe that representation is as important now as it ever has been, and I am seeking to do my small part to help.
  • Coming up with, and trying to stick to, my marketing strategy for this business.

I’ve been busy, and I periodically pick up one of the dozen or so short stories I have in the hopper and add to it; but it’s little more than tinkering. And you know what? That’s okay. I’m letting the creative fields lie fallow, so to speak, and I know I’ll be back at it soon enough.

Meanwhile, in a cool related-but-still-not-writing turn of events, I attended what I think (as far as I can remember) what was my first book reading/signing. I went with two local writers — signings are always better with friends — and listened to guest authors Sofia Samatar and Jeff Vandermeer speak about:

  • The challenges and joys of worldbuilding, including when to stop and making sure that the setting comes from the character, who can’t know what she doesn’t know.
  • What makes for strong female characters isn’t necessarily physical; a woman or girl can show strength of character and integrity, kick ass with words, even be strong through her social bonding skills.
  • The importance of reading novelists who do what you as a writer cannot — to know what your weaknesses are and read to shore them up.
  • Making fiction a little more interactive and, perhaps, intersectional, by writing “messy,” making the reader decide along with the characters during the reading. (This reminded me of a trend in video gaming, toward “morally compromising” situations demanding choice-making, which my friends at Cold Furnace Studios are seeking to drive.)

Lots of food for thought over the last few weeks and months, with lots of opportunities to learn well into fall and winter!

photo credit: kndynt2099 IMG_0915 via photopin (license)

4 comments on “Creative ebb, practical flow

  1. “The importance of reading novelists who do what you as a writer cannot — to know what your weaknesses are and read to shore them up.” – that’s a really interesting tip! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. You’re welcome! Isn’t it though? I never thought of it that way — I certainly have go-to authors for dialogue, description, etc. but not specifically regarding what I don’t do well. Definitely one to rethink.

  3. One of my joys is reading and most often authors that are so out of my field that I find them via friends’ recommendations, NPR and the like.
    Sadly, I don’t find much I like in (what I’m told is) my genres. The writing is poor, the storycrafting weak, plotlines juvenile. Obviously I’m not reading the best of what’s in my field! (Suggestions welcome). But outside my field, learning how authors develop characters, create suspense, project mood and atmosphere, use dialogue, … ah, these are life’s joys to me.

  4. I don’t worry about genre, but I am extremely picky about quality. And I don’t really “study” it — if I’m going to spend time reading, I want to escape and enjoy. I spend too much time analyzing as it is! I think my writing is better for a wide variety of influences, as long as they are well crafted (and I don’t limit that to books — a well written TV show or movie is just as much inspiration, and I’m trying to explore the storytelling in my sons’ videogame play, as well). As a result, my writing may not match genre conventions, but I’ve never thrived when I tried to fit in, so I do what feels right to me.

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