We're Playing for Keeps: A Lifelong Love of Writing

This is your last batch of prompts for the Fall In Love with Your Writing Life series...

Can you believe it??

Our last batch of prompts for falling in love with the writing life: We're looking long term and feeling all the warm fuzzy feelings. It's a beautiful thing. | lucyflint.com

One of the best joys of the writing life is that you can't ever be disqualified from it.

You can do this for the rest of your life. There is no aging out.

It's something you get to do forever: look at the world around you, look at the world inside you, and make stories out of it.

How freaking amazing is that? 

For these last few days, we're just going to camp out there, and get plenty happy about it.

If you feel like bringing some champagne along, do so.

Let's go.

February 25: Write a letter.

When we're working hard, we obviously focus on what writing goals are immediately in front of us. I've got some plans when it comes to 2016 and 2017, and I bet you do too. 

Most of my plans, though, are about production. Publication. Projects launched. New projects proposed.

All very exciting. My fingertips get all tingly when I think about it.

But for today, we're gonna think about goals in a different way.

Namely: What kind of a writer's heart do you want to aim for?

What kind of perspective? How might your approach to writing shift? 

What kind of writer do you hope to be? 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: One more letter to write. You up for it? 

Let's do a bit of thinking first. Get an idea of the kind of writer you want to be—what kind of writer's heart, what kind of writer's spirit?

What issues will you take a stand against, in your work? What causes will you give to?

Who will you dignify? Who will you write for? What kinds of worlds will you give voice to?

I know it's hard to dream in this direction, but I think it's worth our time to explore a bit.

... My best example of this is more of a cautionary tale: When I was wrapping up my English degree and getting all prepared (read: anxious) for a writing life, I met with a full-time writer who was about 8-10 years older than I was. 

I was full of questions. I was a little desperate and nervous and excited.

Here's what I remember about her: She was the most bitter and discouraging writer I've ever met. 

It was a miserable chat.

I walked away from that with no useable advice but this (and it's a biggie): I don't want to end up like her.

I don't want to wind up bitter. I don't want to trade in my peace of mind and happiness and joy. No matter what the publication game looks like, I want to stick with this for the love.

See what I mean?

So what does that look like for you?

When you have a sense of the kinds of virtues and values you want to embody, draft a letter. 

It doesn't have to be long. But try and capture that idea of You, the Writer, ten or twenty or fifty years further down the road.

Oh, and this time, you're writing the letter to yourself. In the future. 

(I know it's weird, but hey: a lot of our readers live in the future. When you think of it like that, no big deal.)

Start by saying something like: Dear Future Writer-Me, This is who I think you are...

And basically, sketch it out. Who is this future writer that's you?

(Personally, I'm dreaming of a future Lucy who is totally perfectionism-free, who has great writing stamina but also knows how to rest and enjoy the rest of her life, who gives courage to kids in story form, who...

February 26: A movie date!

I don't care if it's cheesy: I get so happy when watching a movie that features writing. 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Tonight, watch a movie that has something to do with writing, books, readers, or the writing life. 

Why? Because it's fun!

And that's all the reason we need around here, right?

My perennial favorites are Stranger than FictionMidnight in Paris, The Help, and Finding Neverland. Oh! And then Dan in Real Life when they meet in a bookstore... 

(If you have a killer recommendation, by all means let us know in the comments. I need to find some new ones!)

Tonight isn't about writing anything down.

Just watch. Have some fun.

February 27: Celebrate.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Today, sit in your writing space, or take a journal somewhere else that's peaceful, and just think about this:

You and the writing life—you're committed. 

You are going to spend the rest of your lives learning about each other. This is the long haul! 

There is so much more to the writing life than any of us can explore in a handful of decades.

More to learn about novels, about structure and form. More ways to break the rules.

There are more subjects to explore than any of us could cover... and an infinite number of subjects to invent!

That is a pretty amazing deal.

We're never going to be bored! Ever!

We get to keep the writing life. That's freaking fantastic.

Oh, and then there's you. You're pretty dang incredible yourself.

I'm just saying: The writing life got someone really special in you.

It will spend the rest of your life finding ways to spin everything you think and see and wonder about into words, into sentences, into strings of dialogue.

Bits of you will show up in characters and subplots. Parts of your thinking and your experiences will wind up in readers' brains, their ways of speaking. 

You'll be all over the place!

... If you feel like it, you can write about this. Or not.

You can also just sit there in the quiet and know that this is a life-long love.  

You have each other. And that's beautiful.

So pour yourself a toast, or throw a little party, or just sit there in the stillness.

However it looks to you, take a moment and really celebrate.

February 28: Stay close to your reading life, too.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: It's Sunday! You know what to do. Find yourself a patch of sunlight and a truly lovely book.

And fall into reading. 

The fact that we're lifelong writers means that we're lifelong readers. We're always learning, always absorbing.

Always wandering through other writer's brains, and taking snapshots of the scenery in there.

A reading life. It's one of the happiest, most connected ways to be.

And it's ours! To keep! Forever!

Thanks to Leap Day, we have one more prompt in the series, my friends!

(It thrills me to no end that we have a February 29 this year!! Trying to be dignified about that ... but failing. Leap years are cool.)

Anyway, check back on Monday for one last Love-Your-Writing-Life prompt.

Til then: happy dreaming!

Borrow the Best Advice from Another Discipline

When writing advice feels stale, start listening to the thinkers in other disciplines. | lucyflint.com

One of the loveliest ways to grow as a writer: Listen to a talented non-writer talk about what they do.

It's amazing how your sense of creativity expands. How you get new ideas for ways to solve problems. How your appreciation for other art forms helps you write more dimensionally.

This is why TED talks are so great. I've only listened to J.J. Abrams talk about mystery boxes seven hundred times. And then there's the amazing designer Kelli Anderson and her pursuit of disruptive wonder. (Listen as she talks about "the hidden talents of everyday things," and see if that doesn't get you rethinking what's possible in a novel!)

What about documentaries? (I'm not the only writer who was insanely inspired by Jiro Dreams of Sushi!) I just found Chef's Table and The Mind of a Chef on Netflix, and I'm thrilled. I can just feel the creativity bubbling: they're looking at ingredients from every angle, and I find myself translating, thinking about new ways to consider characters, settings, conflict...

What about learning from master pruner Marco Nucera? This man shapes trees for a living, and he's darned good at it. This except from the totally gorgeous book Educating Alice:

"He has a natural talent for seeing the shapes in trees and bushes," she said. "There is a poetic quality to his work as well as a theoretical one. Both are equally important." ... "I wanted to keep the natural shape of the tree, but bring out its line," he explained. "Trees each have their own strong character. Landscape pruning is like being a sculptor of trees." 

Yeah, they're talking about trees. But somehow, reading that, all I can think of is revision. Listening to the work, instead of just hacking away. Being a sculptor of words. Balancing the poetry with the theory. 

Or what about this--think about your writing life as you read these words:

"Don't overestimate the skill and wisdom of professionals. Take advantage of what you already know. Look for opportunities that haven't yet been discovered. ... Ignore short-term fluctuations." 

It's advice on evaluating the stock market, written by Peter Lynch. But I hear it as a way of trusting your gut with writing, as a way to investigate your own work, and to look for places to keep pushing it. And ignoring the short-term fluctuations of my I love this/I hate this reaction to the work. 

Isn't it about writing too? 

Especially this line:

"Stick around to see what happens--as long as the original story continues to make sense, or gets better--and you'll be amazed at the results in several years."

It's how he judges stock picks, but it's how I think of some of my revision projects as well.

It's so energizing, borrowing perspective from other fields of work. I'm pretty convinced that when we only listen to other writers, all our advice gets stale and reused and dull. 

Borrow from some non-writing creative thinkers this weekend. People who are talking about skills other than writing, other than story-making. 

How are other craftsmen solving their creative problems? How do other disciplines grow in their craft? 

Who can you learn from this weekend?