10 Ways to Embrace Your Inner Author
The mental love your inner author needs is not unlike the care and tending of a plant or pet. If you are anything like me, the first makes you think of death and the last makes you think of a good life.
I tend to say if I could come back as anything it would be one of my pets. If I could avoid reincarnating as anything it would be one of my plants. In fairness, I try with the plants, but before I digress into a whole other blog post on how it is not as easy as everyone makes it seem, I will move on to the 10 strategies this post is actually about.
In no particular order for actual practice:
Feed it good books. What does that even mean? How do you judge a book? A good book is one you suggest to other people. A good book can, but is not required to, make you think, laugh, cry, angry, and any other spectrum of emotions. A good book sticks with you long after you have closed the cover or turned off the switch. You probably have or will read it more than once.
Feed it garbage. You read that right. Sometimes you just want junkfood and things that are not great, but you need a break from all the serious stuff. A garbage book doesn't make it a bad book. I write some trashy books that are there for nothing more than pure entertainment value. They are the burger, fries, soda, and apple pie of your drive-thru reading habits and totally fine to indulge in. Unlike the aformentioned list, the books can be binged on and not increase your health risks.
Feed it truth. Non-fiction is an excellent way to learn something in-depth about a job, a place, a person without actually going there, doing that, or meeting them. The problem with truth is sometimes it is subjective. One of my favorite examples of this is a poem by Pablo Nerudo in which he describes traveling with his family to a new place to live. He recounts in an inerview that when his sister read the poem, she expressed that she did not see the event the same way. They were both there, both children of the same people, coming from the same place, traveling to the same destination, but their expreience and observation were totally different. Both are truth. One is published. So, with all truth, be aware that you can only know what someone tells you or explains to you and they can only do as much as they can from their perspective.
Feed it experience. Experience is a great teacher. If you can take a class on a skill you want a character to have, do it. If you can't try to find someone who has had good and bad experiences with the skill and take notes. Also, take into consideration the timeline of things. I often have to remind people that Marines wore silkies when I was on active duty and today, females can wear the high collar dress blue jackets. So, things change. Some experiences are universal enough they will endure. Boot Camp is miserable no matter what generation you talk to. Access to technology and resources are totally different and continue to improve each year. Don't make assumptions about a job today that are based on your experience or the experience of someone not current on that information. Unless, of course, you are setting your story in that time period.
Feed it movies. Some for pure enjoyment, but others for class purposes. Take notes. Consider all of the elements of fiction and take more notes throughout the movie. Now, consider how that applies to the story you are writing.
Feed it a television series. But, also starve it. Like, don't binge watch because then you won't know what it is like to wait. Wait, like your readers will have to do if you write a series unless you also go for the Netflix strategy and release it all at once. What do they do to help you remember prior episodes? Do they even bother following those threads? Now, apply that to your own series.
Feed it. This means actually eat. Sometimes, we need comfort foods, healthy foods, prescribed dietary guidelines, whatever. You need nourishment, so figure out what gives you energy and clarity and make sure you have that to snack on when you are writing.
Ignore it. You know, sometimes that inner author is looking at you like a sad little puppy who just wants you to stop everything and play or cuddle. You can do that sometimes, but you can't do it all the time. Do not let your writing consume you to the point where you are not fulfilling your other obligations. Work, family, the actual puppy who wants attention. Realize that you cannot be everywhere all at once and sometimes you have to tell the puppy no. Sometimes, you can take a mental health day and just play with the puppy like it is your job (because in some cases it might be). If your inner author is being too needy, too greedy, or to...I don't have another word in mind that rhymes, so...too much, then ignore it for a bit.
Remind it. Remind that inner author that not everyone is going to like what you write. Not everyone is going to get your humor. Not everyone sits down and puts all those words together and puts it out for public consumption and judgment. Being an author means you get the same kind of feedback actors and other performers get. You know you don't like some music. Some style. Some person's voice when they speak. Well, someone out there isn't going to like your writing. Hopefully, you are kind when you find creators and performers you are not a fan of. Hopefully, people will be kind to you. Don't count on that. Just remind yourself, there are people out there who hate (fill in your favorite celebrity) and you love them. So, there are readers out there who will hate your work, but there will be readers out there who love it. Focus on your fans not your haters.
Love it. Tell your inner author you love it. Authors tend to hide their insecurities under a bunch of bravado. Authors can also be ego maniacs who have a self-perception that rivals some characters. Either way, it's your author. You. And you need to love that writer no matter what. You may also need to stage an intervention in your brain if you feel like your inner author is getting a bit too high on the electronic ink so to speak, because there will be a one-star review in your future. I'm not going to give it to you, but someone will. If for no other reason than they feel like it. You will have enough people in your author's life giving the negative side of things. YOU, must love that creative spirit inside of you. And, maybe like the plant that has been living for over 15 years now, if you forget to water it, but remember to now and then, it will continue to thrive. Of course, the plant is low-maintenance and some of you are not, so...figure it out.
This has been 10 tips for embracing your inner author. Keep checking back for more top 10 suggestions from me, Tonya Nagle, PhD.
You can also find interviews and more on the podcast: Creative Writing With Dr Nagle