Just breathing in the air in spaces once inhabited by writers you admire can be energizing and inspiring. A few years ago, a friend and I visited Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst. Seeing the small, serene bedroom where she spent so much of her time dreaming and writing immortal poetry reminded me that all you need to create something beautiful is pen, paper, and imagination. Just recently I came across a great Writer’s Digest online story by Joy Lanzendorfer called “5 Writing Lessons Inspired by Famous Writers” about some of the things she learned from visiting writers’ sites. It gave me such a boost that I thought I’d briefly share the lessons with you:
1. Don’t let rejection stop you: At the Jack London State Historic Park, you can see the 600 — that’s right — 600 rejection letters that Jack received over his career. Imagine opening up 600 “Thanks but no thanks” letters! Our boy Jack kept writing dangerously despite all this and became the highest-paid writer of his day.
2. Creativity should be creative: William Faulkner’s plots were very complicated — and he didn’t have spreadsheets of bookmaps to keep track of them. Instead, he used something much simpler: the walls of his office. In his house in Oxford, Mississippi, you can see a diagram of a book he worked on for twelve years shellacked on his wall. So use cards, color, bulletin boards — whatever you need. Be creative!
3. Silence is golden: While many famous writers knew nothing of the high-tech distractions that we battle every day, they had plenty of distractions of their own. That’s why writers like Eugene O’Neill and Emily Dickinson gave great value to silence and solitude. In her story, Joy asks, “How much more would we get done if we surrounded ourselves with silence? What kind of thinking would come if we banned all interruptions?”
4. Mind-body balance is key: Louisa May Alcott loved to run and climb fences. The poet Robinson Jeffers spent his mornings writing poetry and his afternoons gathering boulders for a house he built. Dickens loved to walk, Joyce Carol Oates is a jogger. As Joy put it, Jeffers and other writers “understood the connection between the moving body and the thinking mind. Even just a walk through the neighborhood can invigorate writing in unexpected ways.”
Inspiration is everywhere: At one point, Robert Louis Stevenson traveled from Scotland to a hotel in California. He didn’t write anything important there, but the scenery and a local legend about buried coins later inspired Treasure Island.
Great lessons to keep in mind as we all write on!