Alice J. Wisler grew up in Japan as a missionary kid in the sixties and seventies and now writes Southern fiction from her home in North Carolina. In memory of her four-year-old Daniel, she teaches writing through losses workshops and founded Daniel’s House Publications, a grief organization. Her fourth novel, A WEDDING INVITATION, is about belonging, being invited and accepted, something she feels each of us yearns for.
Inspiration hits you and you know what we’re going to do. You push aside the urge to make Grandma’s Grits Casserole, decline an invitation to the local high school play, forgo coffee with a friend, and set out to fulfill your heart’s calling. Filled with ideas that are brimming with brilliance, you can hardly wait to have that time for yourself to begin. The task? You’re going to write a novel!
You’re so inspired, it’s crazy. Wow, if only your ninth-grade literature teacher could see you now. You open a Word document, the empty file beckoning you to fill it with drama, adventure, romance, and hey, you’re good, let’s add some witty dialogue.
No distractions for you. You tell your children to hold all phone calls. You’re busy here, blazing a new trail. “Make room, Charles Dickens and Jane Austin, I’ll be joining your ranks soon,” you say as a smile expands across your face.
The words fly from your ingenious mind onto the computer screen. Your fingers type rapidly, each word a work of art. After completing a page, you decide that it’s time to read your masterpiece. Aloud, you begin. “It was a dark and stormy night.” Uh. Really? A voice that was so encouraging just hours ago, now betrays you by speaking in a squeaky voice to taunt, “This sounds like a first grader wrote it.”
Stepping away from the computer, defeat filling every crevice of your creative mind, you head to the kitchen to cheer yourself up with a piece of chocolate. As you eat another piece and another, you conclude that the world doesn’t need another novel anyway. You call your friend to say hey, your hectic schedule just opened up and you can make it for coffee, after all.
What killed your muse? What caused you to stop when you started with such inspiration? Only a myth. The myth is that writing is easy. Remember that inspiration is only one percent of the equation. Perspiration is ninety-nine percent. Getting inspired to write—scanning the newspaper or community news bulletins for ideas, eavesdropping on others at Starbucks—is a piece of pie compared to that other word you seldom hear about these days—discipline.
I’ve been writing stories and novels since I was six. Embarking on the task was easy. I bought pencils, notebooks, and scented erasers (my favorites were melon and strawberry) from the local stationer’s store in Awaji, Japan, picking out just the right ones to accomplish my inspiration. On the walk home from the store, certainty gripped me. Within the pages of this newest notebook, I’d be able to create a story so worthy of awe and praise that I’d be the talk of the town (in a different way than I was used to being talked about as a tall, noisy, blonde-haired gaijin with the American nose).
Dare I admit that over the course of my childhood, I had a closet of unfinished projects? Or were you already suspecting that?
So the question that continued to nip at me even into my adulthood was: How do you stay disciplined?
My two cents on staying inspired and motivated would include:
Make sure you have an idea for a novel that you’ve thought through really well. You know, action and some sort of crisis and characters that are real. I think romance is always nice, but it might not fit into your genre. By all means, toss in a recipe or two (I do and then when I’m weary from writing and go to my kitchen and make the recipe, chalking it up to research. That’s why each of my published novels has recipes in the back).
Add to the plot and subplots each day for at least a week before you start to write. Have a design for your work, just don’t point and shoot. Keep layering it, layer upon layer. Outline if that helps. A thorough synopsis is an invaluable tool, allowing you to see more clearly how your storyline all fits together— if you can stomach the tediousness of forming one.
Write with music! Write even when you aren’t inspired. Chances are that if you keep at it for fifteen minutes (you can set a timer), you’ll be motivated to continue by the end of the fifteen-minute segment.
As we say in the South, get ’er done! Keep at it. Whether it is adding to your page count or word count, set a goal and stick to it. Make realistic daily goals, somewhere between 5 to 7,000 words. The reminder on my desk is: “The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.” I loathe running, but the prompt keeps me focused.
Oh, there are so many more nuggets of wisdom I could tell you about how to stay inspired, but hey, this article is getting kinda dull to write and I’d rather be outside walking in the autumn leaves. Plus I heard that there’s a new batch of Hello Kitty scented erasers on sale at Target.
Gotta go! As we say in Japan, gambatte (good luck)!
A Wedding Invitation
It’s hard to concentrate when the past keeps shoving its way into your thoughts…
After returning home from teaching in a refugee camp in the Philippines, Samantha Bravencourt enjoys her quiet life working at her mother’s clothing boutique near Washington, D.C. When she receives an invitation to her friend’s wedding in Winston-Salem, NC, she’s excited to reconnect with her college pals.
But the wedding turns out quite differently than Sam expects. A chance encounter leads to a reunion with Carson Brylie, a fellow teacher and the man who once broke her heart, and Lien, a young Amerasian girl who desperately needs Sam and Carson’s help.
But working with Carson might put Sam’s tender heart at risk once again. Is she willing to forgive the past and take another chance on love?