Sunday, August 21, 2011

I need a little Superman

Before my mother retired, she worked as a graphic artist for Hallmark. I’d sometimes visit her at work at the corporate offices in Kansas City. One of the things I enjoyed most was seeing all the cool and interesting ways the artists decorated their work areas. My mother told me artists were encouraged to take creative ownership of their space. That the company believed a happy artist was a productive one.

While my mom didn’t have palm trees or funny dolls sitting her shelves or cartoons plastered everywhere in her cubicle, she did teach me the value of keeping your muse, well, amused. If she saw something - be it artwork or jewelry or some doodad - and it made her happy or inspired her in some way, she bought it. This is something I do, too.

My work space is covered in all kinds of things that delight me. And I don’t have a lot of trouble justifying the cost. In my defense, I usually go for inexpensive items. I think the most costly thing was my (fake) tiara. Yes, you read that right. A tiara. And yes, I occasionally wear it. Especially when I need to feel like Queen of the Page. Don’t judge me.

Lately, I’ve found myself in need of some serious inspiration. I recently finished a big project and I always experience a let down after completing a book. (It's like watching your characters go off of their own.) And I haven’t quite got my new project off the ground. I’m in the glorious/awful stage - when things are flowing in your head and you’re excited to get started but that blank first page is still winning the staring contest.

So in the last week, I treated myself to three, new “gifts to the writing gods.” Two were plaques. One says: I’m fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world. (Note to self - I just need a cape now.) and the other plaque says: I have flying monkeys and I’m not afraid to use them!

The third thing I bought was a Superman PEZ. He’s very cute, with the Christopher Reeve curl to boot. Given the fact my new project is gonna be extra tough (it tackles a controversial topic), I can definitely use a little Superman hanging around, waiting to swoop me up and fly when I fall.

Here’s my challenge to you: this week treat yourself to inspiration. Look around and find some little thing - it could be anything - that makes you happy or inspires you. And then put it in your work area. Remember, you deserve it. A happy artist is a productive one.

If you feel like it, please come back and tell me about it. I'd love to hear from you!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

The College of Countless Hours and Hard Work

When my son went to his college orientation, a professor stood in front of the small group of kids who who'd been admitted to the Fine Art college and told them they were special. When they questioned whether or not *every* professor told their orientation group the same thing, she reminded them that while all the other students (for the most part) had been admitted to their perspective colleges based on their high school records, kids in the fine arts had spent their whole lives preparing. They’d taken private music lessons since they'd been tiny, they'd pursued outside art and painting classes and spent years building a portfolio, they'd been in countless theater productions and took acting, dancing and voice lessons. In other words, even though they'd arrived in the same place as the other kids on campus, they'd put a lot more work into getting there and that made them special. I think writing is like that, too. We spend many, many years writing and sticking it out when it feels like we'll never end up where we want.

I'd bet none of those select few kids in that orientation room - many with scholarships - would say all their years of hard work were worthless. So why do we often feel as if we’ve failed when we spend a long time working on a book, story or article and it doesn’t sell or land us an agent?

Our work is never worthless. It’s only preparation for the places we’re heading.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Breaking up is hard to do

After revising my latest novel, I promptly sent it out to an agent who had expressed interest in it. I’ve been interacting with this particular agent at conferences and via email for many years. I thought she might be “The One.” (If there is such a thing.) She’d had some concerns about the direction of my career which is why she’d passed on offering representation last round. But I let her know that I’d made some decisions and hoped she was interested in reading the revisions and discussing my thoughts about my future.

I got a “No and please stop contacting me” within 48 hours. (Okay. She didn’t actually say to stop contacting her - it just felt like that! *grin*)

It was a depressing, l-think-I’ll-go-eat-a-bowl-of-cookie-dough-now experience, sure. But it was also, in a real way, liberating. Kind of like dating someone for a long time, realizing you want more from the relationship but the other person doesn’t. I walked away thinking, “Alrighty then. Well, at least I can cross *that* person’s name off my list!”

But here’s the thing. Several days later, I had lunch with a friend who happens to be one of Agent’s clients. We were talking about the “break up” and she told me she knew the agent had another client who was trying to write both MG and YA and not having much success dividing her energies and nailing both voices. (This was the main reason Agent took a pass on me earlier. She really like the MG book I submitted but not the first 30 pages of my YA book.) So my friend told me she could see why Agent would be reluctant to take on another client that she felt was in the same position.

Who knows? Maybe Agent was right. Perhaps I haven’t quite pulled off the YA voice in my other project. But maybe she let her prejudice and experience with this other writer cloud her judgement when it came to my work.

Either way, it was a good reminder that - sometimes - it's THEM and not you.

Happy writing!