When creativity is hard to find
It’s been hard for me to write this year, as I think it has been for many writers. It’s hard to separate the circumstances of where I am in my writing career—having finished writing a trilogy and trying to figure out what’s next—with the circumstances of the world: a deadly pandemic, trapped in our houses.
Between July of 2019 and May of 2020, I did write and revise novel (working title these days: SAD DRAWER NOVEL), portions of which will, perhaps, someday see the light of day. But since then, it’s been hard to find the motivation and desire to write.
Again, this is partially because of my circumstances. Writing THE GOLDEN WOLF Trilogy and having it published by a major publisher was a dream come true, the pinnacle of all my writing ambitions up until then. No matter what 2020 brought, it was always going to be a struggle to figure out what to write next.
My writing dreams are grandiose: I want to tell interesting, gripping stories, with complex themes, in any genre I choose. It’s hard to know, with writing, as with so many things, whether to stay in my wheelhouse, and write the things I’m really good at (which seems to be adventure stories in historical settings), or branch out. I want to grow, but not abandon the things that made me successful in the first place.
That dream feels even more out of reach this year. Ever since I started writing professionally, and even more in the latter half of 2020, it’s been hard to enjoy reading fiction. And my drive to write comes from my drive to read—I want to write the stories I can’t find elsewhere—but if I don’t want to read fiction, how can I want to write?
Reading as a writer is like attending a magic show as a professional magician. I can see the tricks, the sleights of hand. I can see when I think they’re not executed particularly well, and even when they’re done well, it’s harder to be swept up in the magic when I can see the mechanism at work. In 2020, it’s been even harder to suspend disbelief, suspend my awareness of reality to subsume myself in a fictional world.
In my 20s and 30s I used to read over 100 books a year. I haven’t been counting lately, but I bet I haven’t even gotten to 50 this year. I want to change that in 2021. I’ve never done a reading challenge, but I am going to try this year, and I invite you to join me, or concoct your own challenge. I don’t know if it will solve my creativity problems, but I think it will help.
In 2021, I am planning to read at least:
1 book per month that I already own—like many book-lovers, I love buying books beyond my capacity to read them
1 book of fiction per month that was published in the last ten years—I am not very good at keeping up with the state of fiction these days, and being aware of trends and the market seems useful
1 research book per month related to my current writing project
2 short stories per month
2 poems per month
1 book of fiction written by an author from each of the 6 populated continents
5 books from each of the following genres: historical fiction, romance, fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction for a total of 25 separate books, with a focus on books by BlPOC and LGBTQ authors.
Unless otherwise noted, some categories may overlap. I think this is a doable challenge for me, that should get me close to 50 total books from 2021, and while 25-year-old me would have sneered at that, 42-year-old me will be pretty happy with it.
Do you have a reading challenge for 2021?
I’ll share some of my choices in upcoming newsletters, and hopefully you, my readers, will share some recommendations as well.