I consider myself a writer and a photographer although honestly I don’t quite make a living at either. Still, writing and photography are more than hobbies for me. It’s a passion. So I got to thinking. What inspires passion? What motivates anyone to create art whether in the form of words, pictures, or any other medium?
Inspiration comes from different places and through different means. It could come from a location. For example, I lived for most of my life in upstate New York. I visited the Adirondacks, Whiteface Mountain, and Niagara Falls just to name a few. Those places were impressive but for some reason I wasn’t really inspired until I moved to Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. I guess the moss covered trees, the live oaks, the marsh, and the long stretches of sandy beach just spoke to me. I had never seen such beautiful skies in the morning with puffy bleach white clouds and rays of brilliant light shimmering through. And then there is the sky at night. Breathtaking. The golden colors, the pink and violet hues, all of it inspired me to see things I never noticed before. I have traveled. The Caribbean, South America, many awesome places, but this was in my backyard, in my every day world and so it took on a completely new meaning.
Inspiration can also come from a simple walk through gardens with rainbows of colors, or a butterfly that delicately lands on a purple petal.
It can also come from music, a verse that ignites ideas. It could come from overhearing a conversation, from a smell, or just by watching people.
Different things inspire different people. That little tidbit isn’t exactly life altering news. But for a writer, or any kind of artist, inspiration is the key. Ask anyone who ever suffered from writer’s block. That nagging feeling that something is inside of you, just below the surface but for some reason getting to it is harder than chiseling cement with a nail file.
I believe we have to be open to inspiration. I’m not sure you can just find it on demand. I don’t think you can just stand on the beach and say “okay, damn it, inspire me.” Instead, you have to be open minded, alert, and yet at peace. Let nature talk to you. Let the ripple of a wave motivate you. Listen to the laughter of others or just look at their faces and see what your imagination conjures.
I also believe that one critical key to inspiration is encouragement. A writer might find inspiration to create a novel simply because of a random dream (or perhaps divine intervention), but if not encouraged, that inspiration can linger in a slow, painful death.
I’m contemplating these thoughts because, while I have been inspired to complete a novel and some short stories, I know I have to stay inspired to see them published. Sometimes that can be the hardest part.
The SCWW Conference is close approaching. It’s my first time attending. While I am excited, I am also nervous. I plan to present a novel I have written, rewritten, revised and edited so many times I’ve lost count. It’s my passion. My child. But what will happen to it?
I’ve been encouraged and thus inspired by my writer’s group. I’ve presented pieces of my work to them and sat on the edge of my seat listening to critiques. I understand the meaning of constructive criticism. In fact, I welcome it because in it I find another type of inspiration — the inspiration to improve, to grow, and to aspire into something even better. I also understand and appreciate the old saying – take it with a grain of salt.
Still, rejection can influence the death of inspiration. It doesn’t kill it directly, but it can infect it. How do we handle rejection? We could drive ourselves crazy with all the ‘what ifs’, we could give up, put away the lap top, the pen, toss out the camera, or pour the paint down the drain. Basically, we could say enough. But for anyone ever driven to chisel down to the core and find that awe inspiring creation that could lead to the inspiration of others, that’s nearly impossible to do.
One thing we could do is learn from rejection and realize we’re not alone or even the first. We could think of all the others who came before. All the highly accomplished and widely respected authors who faced rejection.
Kenneth Grahame author of Wind in the Willows was rejected several times because a publisher thought it was an irresponsible holiday story.
Meg Cabot author of The Princess Diaries was rejected 17 times.
John Grisham was rejected a dozen times by publishers and 16 agents.
Irving Stone was rejected 16 times and told his novel, A Lust for Life, was a long, dull novel about an artist. (The book went on to sell over 25 million copies).
To find more authors rejected, goggle http://www.examiner.com/article/30-famous-authors-whose-works-were-repeatedly-and-rudely-rejected.
So, the old cliché that misery loves company might also serve to inspire and hopefully to encourage you not to give up.
To be a writer or any type of artist is truly a contact sport. We are driven not only to write but to share our creations.
I won’t fear rejection. I’ll learn from it. I’ll continue to walk the beach, watch the sky, and embrace the simplicity around me. And for each encouragement I receive, I’ll be grateful. For each critique I sit through, I will listen and learn.
As for the upcoming conference and my extended critique, I admit it’s a huge step. I’d rather take that step then the alternative. So, for anyone who hasn’t registered for the conference, I urge you to attend. Just being there surrounded by so many others, just by taking the chance to present your work, who knows what unimaginable things could be inspired.