Your Setting

Surround yourself with things that make you want to write.

This is a lesson I’m learning more and more.  As you learn more about the world, you begin to find a million things that lead you in all directions.  Watching a foreign film makes you want to learn French.  Reading about adventure makes you want to travel the world.  Meeting a champion juggler makes you never want to juggle ever, and that’s that.  All these are great.  If you’re like me, you know that most things are within reach, and with a little work you can achieve them.  Learning French, traveling the world, never juggling— all worthwhile goals.

But do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to write?

If you’re a different kind of artist, or your career lies elsewhere, substitute your dream whenever I say the word “write”.  This applies to anything.

As a kid, I read a lot of Brian Jacques books, and I’ve posted before about how much they mean to me.  Through reading and imagining, I began to dream about writing my own stories.  For the past four years, that’s what I’ve been doing, and I love it.  I love daydreaming about it and pushing toward that goal.

The path has its ups and downs, though, like anything.  You start off shot from a cannon, propelled by your amazing inspiration and genuine love for what you’re doing.  Then, of course, comes the letdown when you actually realize you’ve got a long way ahead of you.  But you pick yourself up and keep moving, and you enjoy the work for a while.  Then you poke your head up and look around, and start comparing yourself to other people, and you wonder what you’re actually doing.

Can I be a writer?  Do I even want to be a writer?  There are so many other things I could do.  I could learn French.  I could travel the world.  I could not juggle.  Not juggling is time-consuming enough.  How will I ever support a career and not juggle?

It goes through everyone’s head.  The glamour starts to fade from your dream, and you see it without the sparkles.  Was it photoshopped this whole time? you wonder.  Was it just a dream, and now you have to wake up?  After all, you say you love writing, but you haven’t written in months.  You say you love writing, but those essays you have to write for classes, or emails you have to write for work, or whatever you have to write for whatever— it’s all boring, and you hate it.  How can you love writing but hate writing?

I don’t know.  I’m not going to try to give you the answer.  But do this: surround yourself with things that make you want to write.

No matter where I live, I have a bookshelf nearby.  On my bookshelf at home, I have every single Redwall book Brian Jacques ever published.  I have all of my favorite Cornelia Funke books.  I have all the books that I loved as a child, squished up next to each other.  When I went to college, though, my bookshelf changed.  I couldn’t bring that many books with me.  Instead, I had textbooks— physics and calculus and navigation books.  Those don’t especially make me want to write.

Over the last four months, however, I’ve begun to populate my new bookshelf with books I’d rather look at.  Books that I adored, that inspired me to write more.  Books about writing, which weren’t that interesting all in themselves but always made me eager to write something new.  Empty notebooks with cool pages, ready for creation.  I started writing bad poetry, bad songs, bad fiction, whatever I wanted, because these things inspired me.

Things in life will either push you toward writing, push you away from it, or remain completely neutral.  Even if you’re surrounded by neutral things all the time, you’ll begin to drift away from writing— you are becoming neutral as well.  Don’t focus on destroying the things that push you away from writing, though.  Focus on the things that make you want to write.

What encourages you to write, or draw, or play sports, or do whatever you love to do?  Right now I’m reading Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, which makes me want to write more than anything has in a while.  I also just acquired a copy of The Curiosities, by Stiefvater, Gratton, and Yovanoff; The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima; and am on the hunt for Lockwood & Co., by Jonathan Stroud.  I’m more focused than I’ve been in a while.

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3 Comments

  1. I’m so glad you’re enjoying Six of Crows. Now I want to go read it again and I only read it a month or so ago.

    I decided I wanted to not-juggle when I was about eight years old and dropped a bunch of balls on my head when trying to juggle.

    I think reading amazing books and books about writing encourages me to write. Reading the first few chapters of a juvenile fiction book in Dutch last week has definitely encouraged me to learn more of that language. Looking at my favorites of the photos I’ve taken encourages me to take more pictures. And a coworker laughing at my puns encourages me to make more puns.

    I notice a theme here. Positive indicators of progress or positive responses from others encourages me to keep going. But what about when there isn’t any noticeable progress or positive response? What about when you feel like your writing is terrible and meaningless and your knitting is messed up and knotted and your pronunciation is terrible and your puns are met with strange looks? How do you keep going then?

    Right now the little detective squirrel bobblehead thingy on my desk right now is encouraging me to get my chemistry work done. So I think I’ll go do that.

    Reply
  2. Ugh! I know the feeling. It feels like going to college has sapped my writing energy. (Except that I have one really short story which is really a riff of a book I love that I am absurdly proud of. If I get the chance to expand on it in this class, I will and then later I’ll post it. 🙂 ) But I haven’t done parts for an actual novel in what feels like forever. (I did have an idea for a sci-fi thriller though, so that’s good, right?)
    I really like my room, though. I recently got moved into my own space and kind of like the control I have over it. But really, my biggest motivation to write is by surrounding myself with people who I want to write for.
    Anyway, the other day at the library I picked up “Disclaimer” by Renee Knight. I haven’t finished it yet. I’ll have to go back and check it out properly and finish it. So far it’s riveting.

    Reply
  1. The Little Engine Tag: (That’s right. I’m starting my own tag) | The Little Engine that Couldn't

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