Let’s talk about creative collaboration. If you’re anything like me, it can be too easy to focus on comparison and competition instead of collaboration. Collaboration and inspiration are aspects of the writing life I consider often, especially since I recently finished grad school. For me, the classroom has always been a built-in source of creative stimulation, but now that I’ve moved on from that sphere, I realize I’m going to have to work much harder to find that. I want to suggest, however, that sources of creative inspiration and collaboration can come in a a wider variety than we might initially think. So today, let’s dive into some unlikely resources for sparking your creativity in community.
Early on in my research about the publishing world and how to break into it, an editor gave me great advice: stay up to date with what’s going on in the publishing world. Publishers’ Weekly is a well-respected website that has myriad niche strands of book information to subscribe to. Do you want to stay in the know about forthcoming children’s literature or which cookbooks are on this week’s bestseller list? They’ll tell you all of that and more.
The better you understand the current universe of literature and publishing, the more informed you’ll be as you make your own book dreams into reality.
What’s one site you can add to your regular news intake that will give you a reliable stream of career-enhancing information?
Read your genre.
Here’s where the lie inherent in competition threatens to rob you of so much artistic enthusiasm. Do you nerd out about mystery stories, but feel like your own mystery won’t ever come close to your favorites? Instead, what if you approached reading works in your chosen genre as research? When you can shift your perspective from comparison to inspiration, you’ll begin to see the benefits of deeply knowing your preferred genre as you seek to hone your writing skills.
One of my favorite quotes from Anne Lamott’s excellent book on writing, Bird by Bird, talks about the idea of writing a book back to whoever most made you love reading. Most of us can pretty quickly identify the books or fellow authors who first made us want to use words to evoke similar heights and depths of meaning.
So whenever you start to feel a little stagnant creatively, go back to those books or authors. T. S. Eliot’s poem Four Quartets is one of those works for me, and I’ve learned that a little creative ennui is often solved by a good long swim among Eliot’s lines. What are those books for you?
Join a community.
In Seattle, there’s an organization called Hugo House dedicated to all things literary: writing classes, author talks, workshops, book launches, and more. While the full range of what Hugo House offers in one organization might not exist in every city, chances are, with a little digging, you can find a local group of writers who are looking for a community. Public libraries often provide this space, as do community colleges or city community centers.
Hearing feedback on your work as well as getting to hear what your peers are working on will be an invaluable source of challenge and inspiration. And while the previous two encouragements are important places to start, there’s really no substitute for in-person peers.
What’s a place you can find creative stimulation?
Surrounding yourself with a community of peers, whether in blog, book, or physical form, will amplify your own creative sparks as you continue on your journey toward becoming an author.