Published on Jul 30, 2018 by Alys Murray
Today, I'm going to talk about something a stranger told me that has permanently changed the way that I write books and tell stories. I'm also hoping it's not just applicable to writers, but to who we are as people, as well.
My book has a cover and it's so gorgeous please just look at it and tell me it's beautiful because every time I see it my heart skips a beat and I just can't tell you how much I love it.
Anyway, now that I've gotten my fan-girling out of the way, let's talk about advice.
Whether I'm writing or just generally living my life, I love to collect advice. I have a notebook I carry around in my backpack and when I write it in from front to back, it's ideas for books and stories. When I flip it around and write back to front, it's ideas or things people have told me that I want to remember and carry with me. I think it's sort of poetic that my writing and the words other people share with me will, eventually, meet in the middle. I like the idea that I am filling the notebook with stories my heart wants to tell and the inspiration I got from people who shared their hearts with me.
I've collected some great ones. Always wear clean underwear. Never go see a movie you're excited about with someone you don't think you'll love forever, because then you'll always associate the movie you love with somebody you used to know, making the movie bittersweet forever. Dip french fries in your Wendy's Frosty. Love passionately and discreetly.
And there are two pieces of writing advice I'd like to share with you, each scribbled in the back of my notebook.
- You aren't a faucet. You can't just always be running.
A playwriting professor told me this once (shoutout, Dano!) and I've carried it with me ever since. I had expressed frustration because I had only written six days in a row rather than the seven I wanted. And then he told me that. You are not a faucet. You can't just always be running. He continued that it wasn't a defense of writer's block. It wasn't an excuse to not write, but rather to be gentle with myself when I needed a break, when my mind and my creative instrument needed a rest. After all, my body needs rest. I need to sleep. So, too, does my creativity. I think that's also important for all of us, writers or no. We all need rest. We all need recovery. We all need to let ourselves be and breathe for awhile, instead of running ragged because we feel like we "should."
- When you're feeling directionless or lost, feed yourself.
This piece of advice actually came to me from Twitter. I had expressed my frustration at having too many ideas and too much anxiety to pick one to pursue. I was terrified that I'd pick the wrong thing or everyone would hate what I had chosen, or that I would, eventually, hate what I'd written. And the person didn't mean that I should go out and eat a McDonald's Sausage, Egg and Cheese Bagel with a cheap canned mimosa (though that is exactly what I did), but rather that I needed to feed myself creatively.
Like the above advice, this one is linked to rest and recuperation. But this one is also about refueling. What the advice-giver actually meant was that I needed to take time away from my computer and my own circular thoughts and my own internal critiques and worry. It may seem obvious, but I just needed to read. I needed to get in some comfy clothes, curl up with some tea, and simply lose myself in a book.
Reading is my escape. Reading is my happy place. But reading is also inspiration. It's a way to feed myself, feed my creative brain and feed my inspiration. When I was a little kid, every single time I left the movies, I wanted to write a movie script. Seeing good movies inspired me to want to write good stories and bad movies inspired me to want to write even better stories.
So, for all of you writers or creative people out there, I want to encourage you in these two things. When you're struggling, make sure that you give yourself a rest (you aren't a faucet!) and feed yourself. Give yourself time to find inspiration in both the good and the bad art that you consume. I promise your work will be better for it!
And for everyone, I think this advice still stands. Give yourself a break. Let yourself rest. And while you're resting, give yourself something that feeds your soul. If you love reading, read! If you love horror films, watch one of those! If you love devotionals and prayer, set aside time to do that. You deserve it, and you'll be a better you for it.
So, what is your favorite way to refuel? What great books have you read lately? I can't wait to hear in the comments!