Saturday, December 27, 2008

Our Children; Our Future

I can't imagine the Christmas holiday season without children. In our family, this time of year is special for bringing family together, putting aside worries and work, and finding the love and peace that connects us. But it is the children who make it so joyous and promising. 

I was given a bookmark with a most profound message that I wish all of us, including our world leaders would take to heart: "Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children." Indian Proverb

If I have been given a job to do on earth, it is to nurture and protect the children who come into my life, and to give them gifts that will bolster their self-esteem and teach them to cope with some of the trials that life brings to them. When I receive letters from young readers across the country, I am humbled with the responsibility of writing books for kids. I take it seriously and strive to follow the commission the children have given to me. 

An eleven year old from Texas wrote, "Before I read Miranda and Starlight, I hated reading. Your books have changed my life. Last night, I read Starlight's Shooting Star for three hours and it felt like five minutes. You have a gift. Never stop writing books." 

An eight year old from Massachusetts wrote, "I got your book, Starlight, Star Bright. It is my favorite so far. My brother doesn't like horses, but he loves your books. I think you made a great accomplishment. Are you working on a fourth book? I hope you write ten billion books."

A thirteen year old from California said, "I loved your books.…I liked specifically how you give Miranda and the characters challenges that don't have very obvious solutions. It's more like real life, not all tied up in a bow. It makes me want to keep reading them." 

A thirteen year old from Utah said, "I can really relate to Miranda. I am going through the same things that she has with friends. I can't wait for more of your books." 

And another thirteen year old from Wyoming, "I liked your book very much. Miranda reminds me of me." 

A twelve year old from Montana wrote, "Starlight Comes Home is the best book in the series. It deals with real problems we kids face. The ending is surprising and very good. This book tells that no matter how bad things get, you can always get through them." 

There are many more, which was a very unexpected and pleasant surprise when I started writing and publishing my books. But more than that, it is a grave challenge, making me realize that none of us was put here on earth to merely bide our time and entertain ourselves.  There is important work to do. The kids have given me mine. And I must get to it. I have a responsibility not only to my grandchildren and great grandchildren, but also to those around the world, now living and yet to come who may read my books. Time wasted on trivia is time robbed from the children who have loaned me a portion of the earth for a while. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Creative writing, both inspiration and perspiration

"Eliminate the time between the idea and the act, and your dreams will become a reality." Jean Jacques Rouseau

Good advice, I think, especially for the writer. Ideas are plentiful enough. It's the act of transferring them to paper (or word processor) before they evaporate that is too often lacking. Writing requires inspiration, but inspiration alone produces nothing if it is not acted upon—and that requires discipline and consistent work. I once read the advice of a famous author—so long ago that I don't remember who it was, but the gist of his comment is this: to be a successful writer, one must have a desk and chair, a writing instrument, and a bathrobe with a long belt. The purpose of the belt is to tie the writer to the chair. 

It is so easy to allow ourselves to be distracted; to decide to wait for inspiration, when nothing immediately comes to mind. However, unless we allow time in our busy lives to be still and listen, our muse hardly stands a chance of getting an idea through to us. And unless we act on the ideas when they come, we may lose our chance forever. 

I like the article Building a Creative Practice, Not for Wimps by Janet Riehl posted on the Story Circle Network, Telling HerStories, the Broad View. She advises, "Don't wait for your muse to show up." According to Janet, we need to decide the best time and place for our regular writing, make a date with our muse, and ink it into our calendar. If you are interested in writing successfully and on a regular basis, you will want to read the full article. 

I would add one thing to Janet's points on creative practice: Always be prepared to entertain the muse should she show up unexpectedly. Keep a note pad and pen close at hand so that when an idea or inspiration strikes, you can write it down before it escapes. Keep writing materials at your bedside, for often the muse visits just as you are awaking, before you have time to fill your head with the chatter of daily tasks and concerns. 

I give many similar pointers and further advice for enhancing writing habits in my fiction writing workshops. Now the trick is to incorporate them fully into my daily life.