Hey all, Dani here.
I’ll be honest. I’m feeling a little out of sorts today. It’s been this way since I woke up, so though I can’t exactly remember what I dreamed about last night, I’m guessing it wasn’t sunshine and rainbows. There’s a fine line of balance between keeping apprised of world news and drowning in the chaos of people’s panic, and I think sometimes I drift over to checking social media too much. Granted, yes, I follow so many people who are talking about writing and crafting and amusing stories and heartwarming anecdotes, and that is super helpful, but there’s others who are solely talking about the pandemic. It’s getting to me a little bit. But I also am aware that in random moments in between my life activities my habit is to just pick up my phone and aimlessly scroll. That’s not exactly a good habit right now.
I guess all I can say guys is take a deep breath, try to center yourself, and be safe out there. Okay, now on to today’s post.
It would be really cool for all of us who want to write creatively (whether that is poetry, stories, novellas, novels, screenplays, RPGs, video games, whatever) to be able to help uplift and inspire each other, and keep ourselves motivated to strive for our dreams, so I decided to start this blog series here. This series will be a lot of me working through books on writing and creativity, maybe doing and sharing some writing exercises, and possibly doing some writing based discussion posts. It’s going to be an adventure for sure, and I hope it helps you as much as it is helping me.
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
ISBN: 0143130846 (ISBN13: 9780143130840)
A stunning guide to finding creative inspiration and how it can illuminate your life, your work, and your art—from Stephen King, Junot Díaz, Elizabeth Gilbert, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, Roxane Gay, Neil Gaiman, and many more acclaimed writers
What inspires you? That’s the simple, but profound question posed to forty-six renowned authors in LIGHT THE DARK. Each writer begins with a favorite passage from a novel, a song, a poem—something that gets them started and keeps them going with the creative work they love. From there, incredible lessons and stories of life-changing encounters with art emerge, like how sneaking books into his job as a night security guard helped Khaled Hosseini learn that nothing he creates will ever be truly finished. Or how a college reading assignment taught Junot Díaz that great art can be a healing conversation, and an unexpected poet led Elizabeth Gilbert to embrace an unyielding optimism, even in the face of darkness. LIGHT THE DARK collects the best of The Atlantic‘s much-acclaimed “By Heart” series edited by Joe Fassler and adds brand new pieces, each one paired with a striking illustration. Here is a guide to creative living and writing in the vein of Daily Rituals, Bird by Bird, and Big Magic for anyone who wants to learn how great writers find inspiration—and how to find some of your own.
CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS: Elizabeth Gilbert, Junot Díaz, Marilynne Robinson, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Mary Gaitskill, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Roxane Gay, Angela Flournoy, Jonathan Franzen, Yiyun Li, Leslie Jamison, Claire Messud, Edwidge Danticat, David Mitchell, Khaled Hosseini, Ayana Mathis, Kathryn Harrison, Azar Nafisi, Hanya Yanagihara, Jane Smiley, Nell Zink, Emma Donoghue, Jeff Tweedy, Eileen Myles, Maggie Shipstead, Sherman Alexie, Andre Dubus III, Billy Collins, Lev Grossman, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Charles Simic, Jim Shepard, T.C. Boyle, Tom Perrotta, Viet Than Nguyen, William Gibson, Mark Haddon, Ethan Canin, Jessie Ball, Jim Crace, and Walter Mosley.
“As [these authors] reveal what inspires them, they, in turn, inspire the reader, all while celebrating the beauty and purpose of art.” –Booklist
Okay, so my approach with this month’s book was to count up how many essays there were and then try to divide it up as evenly as possible over the four Weekend Writer posts for March. For today’s post I think I looked at the next thirteen essays of the book, so if you want to look at the first twenty-two, you’ll have to check out those posts.
The essays I read this week were: “On Commonness” by Leslie Jamison, “Letting the Leopards In” by Jonathan Lethem, “The Edge of Sense” by Jesse Ball, “A Place to Call My Own” by Angela Flournoy, “Into the Wardrobe, into the Self” by Lev Grossman, “Strangers on a Train” by Yiyun Li, “Time Passes” by Maggie Shipstead, “Translating the Subconscious” by Jeff Tweedy, “The Long Game” by Nell Zink, “Lifting the Blanket” by Charles Simic, “Follow This Voice” by Viet Thanh Nguyen, “You and Me” by Emma Donoghue, and “Words on Paper Will Outlast Us” by Claire Messud.
I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record, because once again I can say that I’ve heard of a couple of these writers, and I’ve read works from a couple, but most of them are new to me. I still like to read their advice, because it’s helpful to learn and adapt from many different sources, but I do feel like I connect better to the advice of those whose work I’m familiar with.
I’m honestly just glad that for right now I’m not working on a couple of my stories because of their focus on death. Like I have a series where my main characters include Death and the Angel of Death; I had almost completed the second book when our next-door neighbor died and a few months later my grandma passed away. It made me put a hold on the story, and I haven’t exactly been able to write the last few chapters since then.
Right now I want to write my geeky D&D inspired contemporary romance book, so I’m hoping it will be something to help me through all of this stuff.
And I think this book does have some nice personal essays in them, and anyone trying to achieve some sort of creative project inspiration can most likely find some words to help fuel them in their process.
Because here’s the thing, all creative people have been where we are. They have had times of doubt and uncertainty. They have had times where they feel like giving up or they are simply crying out for that little boost forward. They have had times when the creativity flows freely, as well as times when they have to struggle for each tiny creative step forward. If they can do it then we can do it too.
It is so nice to have books like this one, where we can open them up and find that little creative spark. Honestly, especially in a book like this. Each essay is only something like 2 or 3 pages long, so it is very easy to read it, even if the only free time you can find is 5 minutes here and there.
So if you’re looking for that little inspirational push forward, check out this book. Or, hey, reach out to me on social media. I spent a decade as a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo; I’ve gotten pretty good at being a cheerleader for the writers around me. I’ll give you a little pep talk. Or I can listen to you and be your sounding board.
Let’s be there for each other in our creative endeavors. Writing stories, making art, creating most things…it feels like a very solitary process. But it doesn’t have to be. There are others going through the same or very similar situations. I’m here for you…and I hope you’re there for me too.
Links to Other Weekend Writer Posts
Introduction — Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer — Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day — The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell — No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty — The War of Art by Steven Pressfield — On Being Stuck by Laraine Harris — The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding edited by Janna Silverstein — Light the Dark edited by Joe Fossler —
Where to Get a Copy
If you found this writing advice helpful, you can pick up your own copy of this book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local independent bookstore through IndieBound.
You can also check with your local library.