Misty of Chincoteague cover

Writers’ Spring Fever

“It’s spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” ~Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, Detective

This post is for a writer friend who has been feeling “empty” recently. We all know the feeling. It’s no fun. I hope this helps—at least until spring arrives.

Lee Smith’s “A Life in Books” Talk

Misty of Chincoteague coverAuthor Lee Smth’s AWP Conference Atlanta 2007 Keynote Address is available as a free podcast, and I strongly recommend it for anyone who needs a passion boost. Smith’s memories of obsessive childhood reading and writing, not to mention her warmth and musical voice, may re-awaken the feeling of writing simply because we love to. Consider her description of writing what is in essence “fan fiction”:

“I started writing in the first place, because I couldn’t stand—and this is as a child—because I couldn’t stand for my favorite books to be over, so I wrote more and more chapters onto the ends of them. I wrote many, many chapters onto Heidi, for instance, and The Secret Garden, and Misty of Chincoteague.”

Oh, do her words bring back fond memories of a childhood in books! I am also reminded of one of my favorite quotations about writing, from Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

The Value of a Single Page

The second inspiration I found recently is from a two-part guest post on Writer Unboxed with debut novelist Jeffrey Small. I really needed this part of his advice this week:

4.  Write one page at a time.

The thought of writing 400 pages of a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end that has all sorts of twists and turns is intimidating to point of being paralyzing. Novels, however, are not written in one fell swoop. Each day, I had to sit down and begin by starting with a single page, just as twelve step programs encourage their members to take one day at a time. Rather than focus on the end product, or even the challenges that might face me in the next chapter, I set a modest goal for myself: 1000 words a day, about four or five days a week. But I always starting with that first single page. Day by day, the pages began to add up.”

Small also offers this encouragement:

“When I was in the midst of receiving rejection after rejection, I spoke to an old high school friend of mine who is now a best-selling YA author. She said these very simple words that became the most meaningful advice I received through this entire process: Giving up is not an option.”

He goes on to tell how his friend wrote five books, all rejected, in five years before she sold her first novel, which then went on to become a bestseller: “I took my friend’s advice and vowed that I would never give up. Instead of writing five books over five years, I just kept rewriting the same book over five years, until it became good enough.”

Read More:

If Winter Comes…

Finally, when all else fails, change is the one thing we can always count on. As Shelley wrote,

O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? ~ “Ode to the West Wind

It’s coming. I promise.

10 thoughts on “Writers’ Spring Fever

    • I do, too! There are so many times I am torn between reading faster to see what happens with a good book and slowing down to draw out the process longer. 😀

  1. I like Small’s advice a lot, it’s the same thing, Julia Cameron says in “The Right to Write”: Always one paragraph at a time, one after the other, don’t bother yourself too much with all the pressure …

    Personally, I have started a longer children’s book, planned the whole thing and “just” have to write it – but at the moment, short stories come more naturally to me. And I am happy with that. 🙂

  2. Great post, Lisa 🙂 So many good links for me to check out. And, two things I love most: “Giving up is not an option” and the quote from Shelley.

    And, then there’s the sunshine today….

  3. I agree, a great post!

    Loved ‘the value of a single page’; I get overwhelmed so easily with the big picture, so I constantly am reminding myself to scale back, and to start small.

    And I also loved the advice,’giving up is not an option’! I might write that down and tape it to my laptop.

  4. I just finished listening to Lee Smith’s keynote on the link you provided. I can’t wait to go to the library tomorrow after work and find “Oral History.”

    I also loved hearing Smith read parts of her book–I could’ve listened to her read the whole dang thing.

    When she spoke from her personal tragedy, she touched a place that I think we all can relate to. As writers, we line up those words to make sense of the chaos that surrounds us. We have to. It’s the only way we can make it through to the other side. Smith’s psychiatrist knew exactly what to do.

    Great post today, Lisa. Lots of wonderful bits of fun to indulge in after a long day at work. Thanks.

    • Elle Marie, I’m so glad you were touched by Lee Smith’s talk as I was. Like you, I put an immediate hold on “Oral History” and can’t wait to pick it up.

      “we line up those words to make sense of the chaos that surrounds us”–that’s it. Thanks so much.

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