Laura Smith



Posted by lsmith335 on June 17, 2012 at 10:45 PM

Is it me, or have you been given conflicting information about where to find inspiration for your writing? I've been told: write what you know, write what you don't know, don't write about your dreams, go ahead and write about your dreams, the list goes on.

While I love critques and advice from other writers, especially experienced writers, I have worried that their advice has limited me in deciding what I write about or who I plan to write for. I've had instructors who pushed towards writing only controversial topics, to break out of my comfort level as controversy and shock value are the only things worthy to write about. I've had others who have said that everything I'd ever showed them was brilliant.  I've been told which genres are acceptable to write about, and which ones just make you a trashy writer. In the end, I think it's best to only critique what a writer is doing, not what they should be doing. I think you should write with others in mind, but if you don't like what you're writing about, it's not worth it to you. You might as well go find somethin else to do. Writing takes too much time to spend it on someone else's expectations. There is an audience for all types of writing, whether large or small. You should write for those people...and yourself.

I spent a number of years with writer's block worrying about expectations. I got into writing when I was barely old enough to write. So, it was always my intention to write for kids. When I began to seriously study writing, I felt like that was no longer an option and that if you're going to bother at all, you should write genre-less pieces, hoping to become the next Steinbeck or Faulkner. Chances are, 99 out of 100 writers you meet will never live up to this. In my case, I didn't want to. I had to force stories and poems out of me. My assignment deadlines were my only source of inspiration. I would come to class, excited to have my work read, and I would be proud of a piece of the work, but ultimately, I wasn't connecting to my own work.

My last semester of college, my Fiction teacher met with each student one on one to discuss the pieces they had shared that semester. She pointed out one particular story I had written from a 13-year-old girl's perspective and said that if I kept the story going, I could have a story relative to "To Kill a Mockingbird" or "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." That was the permission I needed to go back to why I had originally intended to write. Luckily, this moment came to me in my early 20's before I wasted my key writing years trying to pound out stories I just didn't have in me.

That is not to say don't challenge yourself. I am a terrible poet, but I still try my hand at it often, hoping to develop it further. I will never be a great poet. I have no sense of rhythm, my vocabulary is something to be desired, and I cannot pull deep thoughts and feelings onto the paper, no matter how hard I try, but I keep at it. In the meantime, I devote the rest of my energy into writing novels for children and young adults. It is a competitve and risky market, but it is the type of writing I want to pursue and share with the world.

Most of my inspiration now comes from dreams. I get it now when they say you don't have to have an interesting life to have interesting ideas. They're in there. They just come in dream form. You just need to decipher them into something that everyone can understand and enjoy. Not to put those down who have done it, because I have done it myself, but just taking an interesting life experience and changing the names of those involved does not seem very creative to me. It would be like restitching an old blanket with different colored thread. You're not fooling anyone who has seen that blanket before.  Pulling sections out of several experiences and merging them together, however, seems a lot more interesting. It makes the blanket brand new.

Please leave a comment and tell me where your inspriation comes from. Give specific examples or just a general overview of where they come from. Sometimes, it's the most difficult part of the writing process.

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