Our guest blogger today is author and editor Heidi Hess Saxton. Heidi is author of Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert and Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments. She is the editor of “Canticle” magazine and an adoptive parent columnist at CatholicMom.com and CatholicExchange.com. She and her husband Craig adopted their two foster children in 2005, and the family resides in southern Michigan.
As you can see, Heidi is more than qualified to discuss the topic she has chosen for today: combating writer's block.
Someone one asked me how I come up with ideas for writing. In addition to my most recent book Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert and Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments, both available at my website www.christianword.com, I have two regular adoptive parent columns, four active blogs, and I edit “Canticle” magazine. So, as you might imagine, I always have several pieces going at once, and I work hard at writing quickly and coherently.
Here are five suggestions I’d give any writer who is just getting started, to help her combat “writer’s block” and get in touch with her creative muse!
• Read voraciously. You never know where your next great idea is going to originate. Obviously plagiarism (in any form) is out of the question … and yet, creative minds frequently can (and do) “piggy back” one idea into another. For example, one of the blog sites I read regularly, “Antique Mommy” (http://antiquemommy.com/), recently had an article published in “Good Housekeeping” about her scars. Her article got me thinking about the emotional scars foster children experience through the trauma that brought them into care, and how we as parents help them cope with those scars.
• Get in touch with your spiritual side … literally. I have my favorite pictures and icons sprinkled around my work station, my favorite Gregorian chant CD on a permanent loop in my stereo. (At the moment my work station is in a fairly chaotic state, which is understandable considering what my life is like right now. This, too, is something a writer needs to pay attention to … The more stress we feel, the less likely it is that our creative juices can flow uninhibited.)
• Practice childish wonder. The best stories come from bumping into them through your own or (in the case of our children) another person’s lived-out experience. Look for every-day miracles, and you are sure to find them … and your writing is bound to improve as a result! The only way to get away from the trite and obvious is to come at things from a different perspective. In my book Behold Your Mother, I worked hard to understand and explore the human side of the Blessed Mother. Yes, she was the mother of Jesus, the perfect son who undoubtedly NEVER put socks down the toilet. Still, she had to deal with many of the same struggles we do … and a few unique ones of her own.
• Write, then edit. So many writers have a little voice in our heads (we don’t admit it because people would look at us strangely … oh, yes they will), that constant, on-call inner critic. Silence him (or her) while you are getting your ideas on paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. That’s why God created the “delete” key.
• Write every single day, no matter what. Hit enough balls, and one of them is bound to clear the trees …. Get enough words down on paper, and you’re bound to find a few gems in the rock pile. When you come across a particularly good turn of phrase or observation, jot it down in your little writer’s notebook (you do have one of those, right?).
I’d like to close with a favorite quote of one of my favorite writing coaches, Brenda Ueland: “If you want to be a better writer, become a better person.” Enjoy the process!
The BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month long. If you would like to follow Heidi's tour in progress, visit http://www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/ in May. Leave a comment at any of her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!