I think it was one of my very first posts (two years ago?? Really?) that I revealed that my process is the complete lack of one. I don't plot books, I don't know how they will end, I don't know how they will go, I don't know how long they will be nor do I don't know if they (nor I) will die at some point in there. If you've read my latest release, The Protagonist, you know that Daisy has a very precise one. And no, I am not like Daisy in really any way at all. I didn't base her off of me. But what is similar is the change of season in her writing that is mirroring in my life. It used to be that I never had to really try. I would write several thousand words per day, stop when I felt like it, which was usually into the wee hours of the morning. I would wake later and practically fall over myself getting to my laptop. I am not a morning person and that was even before coffee. My imagination and the words were like a faucet and I could turn it on and off whenever I wanted because the stream would still be there. I could and still can write, anywhere. In a coffee shop is best. Hotel foyers are another favourite of mine. Home. Offices. Trains. Planes. Automobiles (honestly). Try to stop me - it won't work. Then I had a rough season where creating was hard. Writing was hard. Even visiting Waldorf Manor was difficult. Painful, almost, because it felt like it wasn't there. Had I fried myself? Or was it that my personal life was hurting and so then too was my creativity? An adopted brother of mine gave me a book called The Artist's Way, and since then I have been told I needed to read it. Several times. I think I'm afraid to pick up the book because I was very comfortable, happy and successful in the process of not having a process. That reminds me, I have a blog post I want to do called The Five Reasons You Aren't Successful (and how to get out of that cycle!). So, come back for that one.
I had a significant issue with the fact that writing was becoming work. It had never before been work - not through The Solicitation, The Shortlist, The Courting or The Glass House. So like Daisy in The Protagonist, I wasn't amused. Why should my process change? Did it have to? Who was in charge of that? Was I to blame? Adopted brother is also a creative (violin teacher and performer) and he said something that I absolutely knew to be true but hadn't faced: what am I doing to fill my creative tank? My reply was 'nothing. I don't have time.' Writing certainly empties my tank and once you get to a point that you are being paid for your love and your passion that's when it changes. That is the time it is more important than ever to protect your tank and even to draw boundaries around it. When you move into living your craft the expectations are set. People are watching and waiting. Your work in on show for the whole world to see, comment, like, share, and even to troll. They are part of it now, too. You don't want to disappoint people or your publisher. You want to support your fellow authors and be there for the readers who connect with you because something in your stories have touched, provoked, moved or challenged them. Everything around you has changed because you're in a new season but you are still the same. Eventually the two will catch up.
I'm the youngest Blushing Books author and the privilege of that is having an absolutely huge network of authors who have been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. This is no shortage of reassurance and internet cuddles. We share those frequently. So when after almost an entire year of wondering what the bloody ..... is going on with me and my difficulty to concentrate on one book at a time, or the 'I just don't want to write today' finally got to me enough, I started asking them questions. Was I burnt out? What's wrong with me? I received an array of answers and not one of them can be discounted. Not a single one. Did I exhaust my ability to build worlds and bring characters to life? No. I definitely thought so as one point but one author made a simple comment that felt like the golden reply - she said I was maturing as an author. As a young lady I've been mature since I was 10. I was very serious even as a child. I know. Amusing. I have a playful side, but when you get my one-on-one and we have a conversation you get the Bella that is passionate and loving. The author Bella doesn't always shower and she is a hermit, she drinks too much coffee and HATES mornings. She isn't entirely charming. And she can be a brat. Remedy remedy remedy.
I even had to think about that. How does one mature as an author? I write books, I turn them in, I've never been asked to rewrite them, and my sales are good. Why mature? Because my whole being is connected, that's why. My brain, soul, creativity are one. The silliest thing I've ever heard is 'leave your problems at the door', and it's usually expected of anyone working under a management system that doesn't understand that we are one. whole. person. We don't come in bits and pieces. I cannot disconnect my soul, out of which creativity flows, from my brain, which analyses all of that information and my body, which causes my fingers to type the words. As my personal self is maturing so is my writing and the process out of which I create.
It took me a long time before I could identify the various factors of my season of difficulty in writing; the personal stuff, expectations, my own obsession with perfectionism, fear of failure, and moving into a new process that doesn't leave any more room to sit around and wait for it to start. I wish I could have submitted to the nagging to move to another story when I was struggling, or even to reach out and ask for advice. Brother is right - creativity is a well and it needs to remain topped up. If you're emptying yourself in music for other people then you need to refill the tank for yourself in another way. Even if it's playing or singing in private, or perhaps it's a completely different form of creativity. I'm much better at singing than I am at playing violin but sometimes it's easier to just pick it up and play Waltz rather than find the backing track to another West End (Broadway) musical. Sometimes I go for a walk, see a house and instantly another book has just been created. If you don't fill the tank but you keep emptying it, you will run dry. Even if something is a talent or gift for you. I went for over a year in one very solid process and routine (of not having a routine) and as the world around me shifted (personal, digital, familial, etc) so did my output. If you disconnect yourself and find that you can create and create and create without any kind of refilling then I would say I'm not sure I believe it. Creative is a very broad term and it's interpreted very personally. Quiet time reading is creative. Cooking is creative. Those things replace what you give away. In conjunction, maturing is a never ending process (I hope) and growing pains manifest in various ways. For me it was emotional and it happened to connect deeply with my writing process and how it behaved when I tried to use my old technique.
Don't let creating hurt, because it doesn't have to. It can and it will during your lifetime but it can be slow-moving or stifled wayyyyyyy before it hurts. Mind that you take care of yourself by refilling your tank and when you notice your processes changing, seek someone you trust in your industry and share your thoughts and feelings. Chances are, they have been there. Give yourself permission to have time for yourself. Stop working 100+ hours a week and getting nothing done because that causes you to work harder but not smarter. Look at a few other areas of your life and see how you're responding to people and circumstances around you. You might be moving into a new season of your life and you just need to slow down, pay attention, and adjust accordingly. Yes, I will scream with you. I hate change too. Growing as an artist, musician, performer isn't mean to be easy but love shouldn't hurt (unless you're a spanko, then behave yourself and it won't) and love for your craft is why you operate in it, right?
Go fill your tank.
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