Top 10 Authors – Kristin Cashore

I’ve picked Kristin Cashore mainly for one book; Graceling. I don’t know what it was about this book that so captured me, but capture me it did. I’ve since re-read it several times and loved it every time. There are not a lot of books I can enjoy as much the second time I read them, but this one I did (and the third, and the fourth).

Like when I read Eoin Colfer’s books, I read Graceling and think I would like to write something like it one day. The other thing I’ve noticed with Graceling is that when I read it I can’t look at the structure or the word-smithing because I get too caught up in the story and characters. That’s the sign of a story-telling and I’m all about story.

It is probably no coincidence I have an affinity for YA writers given I’m mainly a YA writer when it comes to my novels, and Graceling embraces everything I love about writing YA. It covers mature concepts, relationships, even politics, without having to get graphic. Too many fantasy books written for adults have gore and violence to the extreme, sometimes getting lost in those things. But I’ll get off my soapbox now.

I know this book won’t appeal as widely as perhaps some others I’ve picked for this top ten, but I come back to it so often, with such affection, it would be a crime to leave it off the list.

Writing exercises

Most people who have joined a writers group or done a course in creative writing have done writing exercises. I haven’t. I’m one of those people who reads a ‘how to’ creative writing book and diligently reads the exercise at the end of each chapter, but never does them.

I feel like I’ve got enough unwritten or unfinished stories that if I’m going to sit down and write, it should be to get those done. Writing about my character’s childhood or their last breakup seems a bit pointless. I can know how it would have been for them, but that’s a moment’s reflection, I don’t feel I would gain anything from writing it down.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if during these little hiatuses that I seem to have with increasing regularity, if maybe I did some exercises I might get back into the habit of writing again much faster. There is only one way to find out. I’m going to try a writing exercise. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Writers group

I’ve heard a lot of people bag writers groups over the years. This weekend was my writers group meet-up, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Quite aside from the fantastic critiques they give me (which have greatly improved specific stories and my writing in general) but it is such a release to talk about writing with others who write.

Stephen King is perhaps one of the best examples of someone famous I can think of who has voiced an opinion against writers groups. However he does share his writing with a core group of readers, several of whom are writers, and he comments about hanging out with other writers, I am sure they must talk about writing when they catch up. So maybe he does have a writers group, but he just calls them friends. I like to think that my writers group are friends too, we just happened to meet through writing.

I think what I’m trying to say is that if you are a writer don’t do it alone. Meeting up with other people who write so you can talk about the challenges the highs and the lows is amazingly valuable. You may get support from your non-writing friends when you talk about these things, but you get understanding from another writer.

A selfish pursuit

I once heard artists described as ‘selfish’ people. This came from an artist. Having ruminated over this for a while, I can see where they were coming from. Most forms of art require a lot of focus and dedication, often at the expense of focus on the world (and its people) outside. Isn’t this the very definition of selfish? Being lost in one’s self?

There are a lot of negative connotations around selfishness, in fact I can only think of negative aspects of it, other than for the person who is being selfish of course. But maybe this is where art breaks through the selfish definition? I think of all those novels, songs and art which have given me so much joy. I am so grateful to those artists that they didn’t let family commitments or overdue friend catch-ups come between them and their art. I benefit daily from the artistic selfishness of others.

Perhaps the truly selfish thing for the artist to do would be to hold that creativity in so that no-one else gets to experience it? Maybe I need to get a bit more selfish to become less selfish? In summary; I need to write.

Muse

I was asked the other day how my writing was going. The short answer was that it wasn’t. Then (before I realised what I was saying) I said I had no muse. Where did that come from? Was it my subconscious mind talking to me, or was it a knee-jerk excuse?

The traditional muse is a person, but I’ve written plenty before without one of those inspiring me, so it got me thinking – what is my muse? When I look back on my productive writing times there has been one really common element; hating work. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say my muse is the hatred of work, I think it is the fear of being trapped there forever.

Lately I haven’t been hating work. It has been really busy, and sometimes stressful, but I don’t dread getting out of bed in the mornings. That then leads me to the even bigger question; how productive would I be if I didn’t have work? Would fear of starving inspire me to write in the same way as the fear of being stuck in a hated job for the next 30 years?

Now my psychology education is pretty out of date now, but I’m pretty sure that depending on fear to motivate you is probably not a good thing. So I guess what I need to do is turn that around and find the opposite of fear to motivate me, so what is that? Contentment? Comfort? Security? The last word isn’t one I’d normally associate with a career in writing, but maybe that’s this year’s challenge?

It took me a few years to conquer the last challenge (patience) but the slowing down of all the systems at work finally helped me master that one.  It’s now time for a new challenge, so let’s see if I can use ‘a desire to attain’ instead of ‘a fear of having something forced upon me’ to become a motivating factor. Easy. 😐