Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Fuels Your Writing?

If you've been writing for any length of time, you know that it can be a hugely draining endeavor. You will spend hours plugging away at your keyboard praying that what you are writing will sometime be read and appreciated by others. And if you're realistic, you know there are no guarantees that will happen.

Writing is a tireless dictator. It requires infinite words, unlimited time, and buckets of inspiration. 

So where do you find the fuel -- the photo is a bit tongue in cheek, because if you talk to most writers they will swear by copious amounts of coffee and chocolate. Mixed together you may just have the gold that powers them through the long hours and nights. 

But each writer has her own process. Here's what I think fuels most committed writers. What would you add to this list?

1) A committed writer has passions. They believe they were created at least in part to capture stories on paper or monitor. They have embarked on this journey fraught with danger and uncertainty because they have a passion for words, for characters, for creating. It is an innate part of who they are. Without writing, they don't feel complete.

2) A committed writer has goals. Passion alone isn't enough. If you Google "how many people want to write a book?", you'll quickly find articles that claim 81% of Americans* (or roughly 200 million people in the United States alone) want to write a book. That statistic lines up pretty well with the number of people who tell me they've thought or dreamed about writing a book. The passion might be there, but a committed writer takes the next step and moves to goals -- concrete, this-is-how-I-will-get-there goals. 

3) A committed writer makes sacrifices in pursuit of the goal. For me -- TV, I don't see many movies in the theater, don't have many coffee dates with friends. Probably don't get enough sleep. But for each of us the sacrifice will be different. And those sacrifices will change as our lives enter different seasons. But there will be sacrifices. Something has to exit to make room for the dream. 

4) A committed writer fuels the dream with BICT (butt in chair time). Without it, there is no writing -- though I do have friends who write entire books on iPhones. I don't know how, but they do -- you know who you are, Kristy Cambron and Dawn Crandall. Crazy women! But all in pursuit of the dream. 

5) A committed writer bathes the dream in prayer. The dream is empty without the Dreamer participating in the dream with you. Let me say that again. The dream is empty without the Dreamer participating in the dream. Eric Liddell is said to have said he felt God's pleasure when he ran. I feel God's pleasure when I write. It's part of what I was created to do. Don't get me's still work, but it is a partnership with the greatest Creator. 

6) A committed writer is always learning. They are reading craft books and blogs. They are reading books and analyzing them for what works and doesn't. They are constantly pushing themselves to be better. 

I didn't start drinking coffee until I started writing. But I can't drink it black like the cup in the photo. It has to have the right mix of creamer. And I'm not nearly as big on chocolate as most people. But if you wanted to buy my a bag of Lindt white chocolate peppermint truffles, I would say "Yes, please!"

What fuel would you add to this list?

* The closest I could track the statistic to is a New York Times OpEd written by Joseph Epstein. You can read the piece here.


An award-winning author of twenty books, Cara is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.


The Red Wolf said...

I think your list hit the nail on the head!
Regarding #5, I don't believe in God, but I do believe in Fate. I remember a strange time when I had arrived at a scene in my work where I wanted to incorporate a character (The Lady of Shalott), but I had Writer's Block because I didn't know which direction I wanted my story to take. For the next few weeks, things related to the Lady of Shalott kept popping up here and there until I finally wrote out my scene and I stopped seeing the signs. Believe me, I looked for them. Maybe it was a coincidence; maybe it wasn't, but it was very bizarre.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Cara, I loved this post. Coffee is definitely a fuel for me. :) I like chocolate, but my body will only tolerate it in small, occasional doses. Sigh. :)

Two other things that fuels me is prayer and quality time talking story with writing friends. I often come away inspired after time spend in these activities. :)

Anonymous said...

Needed these reminders. :) Great post, Cara!

Cara Putman said...

@The Red Wolf, I love how when you needed them, your subconscious was finding the Lady of Shallot everywhere. Our minds are such complex, amazing things.

@Jeanne, there's nothing like time with writing friends to fuel creativity. I so agree!
And @Meghan, I'm glad the reminders were helpful. Thanks for reading!

Teresa Tysinger said...

Hi, Cara. I really love this. And it's so timely for me. I'm at a crossroads. The signs read "Go or Get Off the Pot," "It's Now or Never," "Make It Happen," etc. My gratefulness for ability, passion, and amazing support fuels me. Thanks for your tips here. Super helpful at just the right time.