18 April 2012

What Inspires You?

Sometimes, I can be pretty fearless. I don't even think twice when it comes to putting on a silly costume and even posting pictures online for the whole world to see. I've gone cliff diving and swimming in the ocean. I've even told my kids the stories of my life's most embarrassing moments. But as you know, when it comes to my writing, I have a tendency to channel George McFly, from Back to the Future.

*I had a clip here of George McFly, explaining why he never lets anyone read his stories, because he fears rejection... but I couldn't figure out how to get it to play without tons of advertisements popping up, & if it annoys me, I'm betting it annoys you too, so I deleted it.*

I write my stories... then I send them to my critique partners and revise and repeat. But when it comes to sending my completed manuscripts out to the professionals - agents and editors who have the power to reject me - I can't help wondering: "What if they don't like them? What if they tell me I'm no good?"

Sometimes, that fear is strong enough to make me want to put down my story pencils, close my notebooks and find a less terrifying job - something like snake wrangling or shark documentarian. At times like this, I have to find ways to keep myself moving forward.

I have a few silly tricks that I fall back on when I need a confidence boost. First, I go back and read the twitter feed of @GoslingLitAgent. His corny, cliched romantic comedy-type encouragement makes me smile and gives me the shot of confidence I need to write my next query letter.

I did a happy dance around my room when he responded to one of my tweets - mentioning me by name!! - back in February. (I took a screen shot and made it into my desktop image on my laptop!)

I don't know who is really behind this account, and although I sometimes entertain myself with playing the guessing game, I honestly don't want to know who @GoslingLitAgent is in real life. The power here is in not knowing. I can read his tweets and tell myself: There is an agent out there who will feel this passionate about my book. She/He is out there somewhere, waiting for my query to arrive, and I can't give up until I find that agent.

Next, I play some encouraging music. Nick Jonas' rendition of Michael Buble's hit "Haven't Met You Yet" (as seen on the NBC TV show "Smash") makes me feel all giddy and excited about my mystery agent.

Ironically, I've loved this song for years, but it wasn't until I heard Nick Jonas sing it on "Smash" that I heard the lyrics as a reflection of my search for the perfect literary agent. Maybe it's because the TV show is about a group of artists struggling to find a voice... Or maybe it's because it was another song by Nick Jonas that inspired me several years ago to sharpen my very first story pencil and start writing. Either way, I often play this song on repeat, listening to it for hours while I work through a tricky revision or gather the nerve to send out a query letter.

Two weeks ago, I added another song to my routine: "One Thing" by One Direction. Because someday, I'll find the agent who reads my manuscript and says "You've got that one thing!"

If that doesn't work, I go back to read the personalized, encouraging rejection letters I've received so far. And I remember the horribly devastating rejection I received after the first contest I entered. Realizing that I've received praise and condemnation for the same story gives me hope. When agents and editors say that this business is highly subjective, they aren't kidding! I can't give up simply because I haven't met my manuscript's soul mate yet!

So what are the silly tricks you employ to keep your courage up? What inspires you to face your greatest fear? When all else fails, surround yourself with good friends who tell you you're amazing :)

p.s. Sorry about the commercials in the videos. If anyone knows how to take the advertisements off (without bending any rules or anything), I'd love to know!


  1. There's so many thing that inspire me, it's hard to name them all. I do know the inspiration for my upcoming Library Jumpers was inspired by a coffee table book about libraries around the world.

    You never know what will inspire you so I guess it's best to keep your eyes opened and ears tuned for it. Great post!

  2. You are so right. Inspiration can jump out at you from anywhere. Got the idea for my first novel @ my high school reunion, when I realized my classmates hadn't seen me as the geek I thought I was... I'm now tossing around the idea for a MG novel inspired by some information I came across while doing family history research - kind of a Magic Tree House meets "Who Do You Think You Are?"

    Inspiration is everywhere!