“There is creative reading as well as creative writing.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Have you ever noticed the sometimes, when you’re really involved with a piece of writing and you put it aside for a bit and pick up something totally different to read, you find something valuable you can bring back to your own work?
For some reason I can’t explain while at my local library, I started reading a biography of the French literary lioness, Colette. The book dished out some savory snippets of her writing, which is very alive, sensual, and in-the-moment. Reading them made me realize that I need to bring more vibrancy, taste, touch, and immediacy to my YA novel. Now Colette’s world is about as far away from my YA story as you can get — and yet, her love of the nature and her tart, juicy language are inspiring me to enrich and enliven the world I’m creating.
Recently, I red an interview with Junot Diaz in which he talked about exactly this same process. For some reason, while he was writing his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which focuses on Dominican life and “craziness,” he started reading a book that was far afield from the subject of his own book-in-progress called The Ice Storm by Rick Moody. As Junot tells it, “…The Ice Storm kind of fell on my lap. It gave me the idea for the deep structure of the book [Oscar Wao], which was to pattern the characters on the Fantastic Four. It fell on my lap. I wasn’t looking for The Ice Storm…”
I just love this aspect of writing: When you’re really immersed in words and world-building, you seem to draw from everywhere and anywhere little shards of ideas and inspiration — whatever you need to help you on your way. When you show up, day in and day out, ready to work, then the universe supports you in miraculous ways by delivering odd and often mysterious sources tailor-made to help you strengthen your story design or character development or dialogue.
Allow these generous gifts to come your way! If you’re working on something steadily, make it a point to take inspiration breaks on a regular basis. Read something on a wildly different theme, see a show, grab that invitation from a friend to go to a concert. You never know what might happen! When I went to a reading a while ago, one of the young actresses who was playing a totally modern teen suddenly struck me as a great model for my YA heroine. Who knew? Since we can never be sure where these ideas and images will come from, let’s keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open and invite them in. Write on!