Writer Pep Talks #3 and #4

Time has been flying by, and I’m already behind on keeping up with these “weekly” pep talks. However, I am managing to keep up with quite a few of my goals for this year, which is giving me some motivation.

Unfortunately, the drive and inspiration that the beginning of the year brings has begun dissipating and real life insists on rearing its head. And let’s just say my willpower and self-discipline has always had room for improvement.

In order to regain some of that drive and inspiration, let’s visit Grant Faulkner’s fount of wisdom that is the Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo. If you missed the first two and want to move through them in chronological order, feel free to give them a quick read and then come back (Pep Talk #1 and Pep Talk #2).

Pep Talk #3 Summary

This week’s topic was “Finding your Muse.” When discussing the idea of inspiration, Faulkner says “ if you wait for it, nothing happens” and “the urge to wait for inspiration has killed many a wonderful story” (22-23). He goes on to encourage all writers to write, even when we aren’t particularly feeling inspired, per say. The discipline and the process of finding the words can be the inspiration itself. Consider your own act of showing up to plan, outline, draft, or revise to be inspiring. To yourself and to others.

I enjoyed Faulkner’s metaphor of the big lightning strike of inspiration (the one we all seem to be waiting for) to be like Bigfoot.  It’s elusive. But you have a better chance of finding it if you are in the right spot, AKA sitting down ready to write, or already writing at that moment.

Faulkner also describes the Greek muses as spirits that are given life by your own imagination and attempts to call upon them.  I  like the idea that the muses have a reciprocal relationship with us. We wake them up with our imaginations at attempts at creativity, and they give us back more ideas and inspiration.

Every writer has moments (possibly lots of them) of self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Faulkner assures the reader that we are not alone in this. However, he continues to urge us to “plop your heart out onto the beautiful blank page,” and be our own muses.

Pep Talk #3 Homework

“Write about what inspires you to write – whether it’s the desire to create lyrical prose, escape this world, or explore your inner world. Think about the last time inspiration hit and how it came about. After you’ve written this short piece, focus on the things that inspire you to sit down and write on even the worst days. Your big inspiration can open a pathway back to writing.” – Faulkner, 24

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Jules’s Response

The most recent dash of inspiration was inspired by a Tarot card draw. I do this frequently to create new combinations of characters or images and try to make a connection between them. Usually, inspiration strikes in the form of characters.  Then I start to ask questions. Lots of questions. And as I answer them, a story world begins to build around the characters. Sometimes I have to draw more cards to “inspire” the conflict, but most of the time not. I just need either two characters, or one character and a goal. I love creating stories surrounding these characters or the symbolism surrounding them.

In this most recent instance, I pulled the Ten of Pentacles, which can indicate the extended family, leaving a legacy, and financial security.  To go with this card, I pulled the Two of Swords in the inverted (upside down) position. This can indicate treachery, lies, or dealings with rogues. 

So now I have a wealthy family (perhaps old money), betrayal, and a rogue.  Is the rogue part of the family? How did the family get the money in the first place? Are they a family that accrued their wealth through shady and underhanded means, or were they part of the underbelly of the city (mafia or mob) several generations ago?

If the rogue is a part of this family, is this character the one who is “betraying” them? How so? Does this character want to go straight with their businesses? Or did they return to the mafia ways after the family has tried to go on the straight and narrow?

I’ve started writing notes about this family and main character, and hopefully will be able to build enough of a story to write a full-length short story, novella, or even a novel out of it.

Week 4

Pep Talk Week 4 Summary

Week 4’s topic is titled “Be a Beginner,” and emphasizes the need to approach writing and creativity with the enthusiasm and curiosity of someone who has never done it before. Have you ever started a new hobby and been excited to learn absolutely everything about it? That’s what Faulkner insists we need to channel as we write. The hyperfocus, the enthusiasm, the “I’m going to master this and make the coolest thing I can” energy. The realizations that come with solving problems or minor hiccups.

When we have a “beginner’s mind,” Faulkner explains, we have unlimited potential. Because we haven’t been told “it must be done this way” by others or by ourselves. The vastness of potential is what is so exciting in the beginning stages.

Take for example, if you were to start a new writing project. What story will you write? You could write anything. But the moment you start to confine it by industry standards – it’s going to be a mystery or a romance- a few of the potential options are cut off.  Then once you decide your target demographic (also a necessary step according to publishing standards), that also changes the potential options for the book. You wouldn’t expect your Noir Detective Fiction book to have the same audience as the Magic Tree House books, would you?

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But if you continue to see the vastness of the potential for your writing and creativity, you are more likely to continue to be so pumped about your story and characters. And what if you did want to mash those two genres together? If you’re channeling “beginner’s mind,” you would set about exploring how to do that. But if you were immersed in the experienced mind, it might tell you that mashup would never work – thus forever shutting off the potential for a Noir Magic Tree House Detective Agency to ever exist. 

And doesn’t a Noir Magic Tree House Detective Agency sound kind of fun?

Pep Talk Week 4 Homework

“Think back to a beginning – your first guitar lesson, the first poem you write, the first time you traveled to a different country, even the first time you fell in love. Reflect on what possibilities you felt, how you noticed things, what experiments you conducted, perhaps without knowing it.” – Faulkner, 29

Jules’s Response

The first time I remember consciously writing a story was in my 2nd or 3rd grade. I was probably 8 or 9 years old at that point, and it was around Halloween. Our teacher was reading Roald Dahl’s The Witches to the class. We were given an assignment to write a short story (it had to be at least one page long). I was utterly in love with R.L. Stine’s The Werewolf of Fever Swamp and wanted to write a werewolf story.

I absolutely knew that I could write a fun werewolf story. And I felt like I could write as well as R.L. Stine since I’d read his story so many times. My confidence was unmatched! Having never attempted to write a story before, I wrote and wrote -more than 5 pages, which made my teacher very surprised and so excited she asked me to read it in front of the class. 

I loved my story so much! I had fun thinking of how the character would change into a wolf. Would it hurt? Would the magic be sparkly? What colors were the sparkles? I ended up adding a large amount of imagery in the story, without really knowing what imagery was.

I had such enthusiasm for that first story. And I must say, whenever I start a new project and start asking myself questions about how the story world works, I do return to that enthusiastic “beginner’s mind” state most of the time.

I highly recommend it. 

What gets you in your beginner’s mindset?