Laurie Halse Anderson is an inspiration! During her breakout session at the 2011 LA SCBWI conference she shared her insights on how to create and honor your time and creative life. She offered the following nine tips to help us all embrace the creative life we’ve been dreaming about!
Nine Tips to Help You Set Creative Goals and Achieve Them!
1) How many hours a day do you want to write? What is your daily minimum? (This can vary depending on the time of year it is). Write it down and commit yourself to finding that time!
2) Turn off the TV! You can watch TV, but then you are NOT ALLOWED to complain about not having time. You choose what you leave behind after you die. Do you want that to be watching TV? Know your vices!
3) Stop Volunteering! All you have to do is say: “Thank you for the invitation, but I’m going to have to say no.” Put it on the wall next to your phone! There are lots of other people out there for whom volunteering will be their creative time.
SIDE NOTE: If someone is really angry at you about making these changes, that person does not respect your passions. This may call into question how much they love and respect you. If this is your dream then that person should always be supporting you.
4) Find a way to state your needs to your family in a loving way. Don’t teach your kids not to fulfill their dreams by not fulfilling your own. Kids learn through observation and they will learn from your actions. Take your own dreams seriously!
SIDE NOTE: When the creative needs in a couple are not being met the couple is having issues. This is one of the major neglected areas of a relationship. Get your beloved on board! Go on artist dates together (see the book “The Artist Way”). Include your kids and your beloved on artist dates (going to museums, etc.). Go on artist dates at least once a month if not once a week! Experience food, art, unfamiliar places physically so that you can go to unfamiliar places in your writing
5) Claim your space! Build a writing cottage! For a while LH Anderson used her car as her writing space when she was picking up kids from sports. Carve out a little space that is yours. I could be a side of the couch or a room. This is important to your soul. Honor that space on the outside and that honor will seep to the inside.
6) Be Gentle. Stop telling yourself you suck! Be nice to yourself!
7) Turn the Internet Off! You can have the moral courage to turn your internet off. If you need to do research create a list of research questions while you are writing (rather than going to the internet). Later when you are done writing go to the internet and search those questions.
8) Dawdle with Purpose! You can’t always be ON. Make a list of ten-minute things that you can do to distract yourself. Poetry is great for this. Move around and get physical. Go for a walk. Move your arms. Swim. Get oxygen to your brain!
9) Beware of Self-Sabotage! We love reading, writing, and talking about writing. “Don’t be a writer, be writing!” – Great Faulkner quote. Those deep places that we write from can be painful and we often avoid them. Ask yourself what you are afraid of. Are you self sabotaging o avoid what you are afraid of?
Every new book is hard! You’ve never wrote that book before. It’s uncomfortable to figure out what your book is. “I hate writing. I love revising.” – Anderson.
This is a good journaling topic. Ask yourself why you are self sabotaging. If you are sabotaging your creativity other things are out of whack in your life. She used an example of a friend who knew that if she succeeded with her book it meant she would leave her husband, so it was easier to sacrifice the book.
A Few Other Ways to Get Back Into Your Creative Self and Creative Space:
- Journaling is a great way to change your creative habits.
- Stop watching American Idol. It is the Devil!
- Write 15 minutes a day, every day. If you have time to shower and brush your teeth in the morning, you have time to write for 15 minutes. Brainstorm, free write, just be in touch with your novel.
- You need to be in touch with your project everyday! Otherwise the time and distance with turn itself into a monster.
- You have permission to be creative! You have been anointed! Your dreams are valid! You are awesome!
- Anderson’s professional writing friends spend more time promoting their books than writing.
- Go to schools to effectively connect with teens. Be prepared to know that they will look like they are sleeping, but some of them are really listening.
- Schedule school visits in blocks so you don’t eat up too much of your writing time.
- Make a five-year plan! Make this plan with five other writers so that you can support each other and check in bi-yearly and yearly to see what sort of shape you are in!
Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award Finalists. Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Northern New York, where she likes to watch the snowfall as she writes.