I don’t know about you, but I tend to focus on technical resources when I’m trying to improve my editing and writing. It’s almost like I believe it’s not okay for me to invest in the things that compel me emotionally, that I must focus on improving my craft skills. Why do we do that? Why are we so quick to repress our personal needs?
As creatives, finding resources that fill our emotional and psychological wells is just as important as sharpening our language and story-telling skills. Sometimes just knowing what we might need, even if we don’t need it right this minute, can bring us hope and energy when it matters most. I found this adorable little illustrated book from Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell at a local bookstore. I picked it up for a quick flip through and ended up standing right there in the entryway, reading it for nearly fifteen minutes. And then I bought it and signed it to myself.
Sometimes knowing what we might need in the future can bring us hope right now.
This book made me feel. It made me want. It inspired me to be better, do more, reach higher. I knew I had to have this physical book on my shelf so I can pull it out and flip through whenever I need a morale boost or burst of purpose. And, whew, has that come in handy lately!
2019 was not a boring year for the romance industry… or really, for the world in general. We’re watching events unfold that are driven by passion, belief, dedication, and perseverance (often equally on opposing sides). Sometimes we may agree with what we see. Sometimes we balk on a visceral level. The importance of free speech is more evident than ever, as is the terrifying fragility of peace.
Peace is terribly fragile. We need to choose our words and actions with care.
The way we choose to react and interact defines who we are, the paths our lives take, the imprints we leave behind—this includes the stories we tell. Mr. Gaiman’s opening chapter of Art Matters encapsulates all of this in a lyrical yet straightforward way, and his Credo reminded me that I too need to keep an open mind and choose my principles and words with care. It underscored just how important fiction and fantasy are in the midst of chaos, that our stories can reach beyond our own wants and needs.
Our stories can reach beyond our own wants and needs.
If you’re thinking, “Okay, Sue, isn’t this more of an Inspiration post?” you wouldn’t be totally wrong. But on this January day at the dawn of a brand new decade, one already bursting with conflict and negativity, I realize just how important self-therapy is. And libraries, reading, and daydreaming are all an excellent place to start. Gaiman’s opening lines of the second chapter will bring warmth to any book lover’s heart, but especially to authors:
I suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. Everything changes when we read.
He stresses the importance of literacy and educating others—of fostering empathy—even if the subject matter isn’t highbrow. He reiterates how libraries are about freedom, not only in the form of education, but of entertainment and communication and ideas and safe spaces.
That’s just the first two chapters. I’ll save the rest of the book for your own personal discovery. But what I want you to take away from this post is that there are writing resources out there that aren’t about grammar or story structure or character arcs. Some of the lessons we need to learn, as authors and as human beings (because the two are inextricably entwined—to write is to be human, to embrace faults and strive for more), come in the form of history and social interaction and critical thought.
Our creative fiction can inspire someone else’s realization of truth.
To fill our creative wells, sometimes we need to look within. Sometimes, our creative fiction supports someone else’s truth. And isn’t that special?If you haven’t snagged Art Matters by Neil Gaiman yet, here’s an Amazon link. It’s an affiliate link, which means I’ll make a fraction of a penny from your purchase, or you can pick it up at your local bookstore. It’s been sold out at the last few places I looked, so you might call ahead first to be sure it’s in stock. I hope this book brings you new insight as we start the year. I hope it inspires critical thinking that elevates your stories. I hope it brings you peace and conflict and a sense of purpose, both in your craft and in your life.