I’m delighted to welcome fellow New Zealander and Samhain Publishing author, Jane Beckenham today. Jane is currently burning up the top ten sales list with her latest release, He’s The One, and I couldn’t be more pleased for her! Today she’s talking about something that I endorse wholeheartedly – filling the well. Is your well full? Over to Jane…
An interesting thing occurred a month or so ago. I stopped writing. I wanted desperately to start a new book, I was seriously over edits and line edits and galleys, and the never ending promotion, but instead of starting a new book –like most writers I have a file of story ideas I reached for those.
Sad to say, they just didn’t spark.
Instead I developed a love of cleaning windows. Pathetic, but there really is a lot to be gained by looking out of windows that are no longer marred by months of dirt and grime.
Two weeks and I was over window cleaning so I tried again and got out that list of ideas.
Nope. Not one word on the page.
I mean I’ve been writing solidly for 11 years, have 12 books under contract, and several more written, (not counting the duds when I first started). What was wrong?
Was my writing life over? Come back Ms. Muse, all is forgiven.
The darn girl stayed away and my fear exacerbated.
Then I got a rejection, and that kinda put the proverbial nail in the coffin.
Rejection does that…for a bit, but I wailed to my writing buddies “What is wrong? I can’t write? I’m no good.” It was definitely all woe is me.
Then someone asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks.
“Jane, what do you do to fill up the well?”
“The one that sustains you as a writer, that gives you the ‘juice’ to carry on.”
Was there one? I didn’t have a clue.
“Don’t you ever stop?”
“Oh…, that’s the reason then.”
“Sure. You need to stop, fill up the well. You see your body is like a car. It needs gasoline to keep going.
What are you doing to refill the tank, what’s your sustenance?”
“Too much chocolate,” I replied. But what my good intended writer friend meant was what was my sustenance for my soul, for the inner being of me the writer.
This was quite a new concept for Madam Writer. “I’m a wife, mother, homemaker, worker, and writer. I don’t have time to stop or ‘juice’ up.”
“And that’s why the tank is empty, ma’am, why the well is dry and you aint getting one word on the page these days.”
These words of wisdom got me thinking. Could there be something in this. Does a person need to actually stop?
So I asked bunch of writers, all wonderfully successful women who I so much admire for their ability and value for their friendship.
Here’s how they refill their well.
Pat Snellgrove – Taking me time, reading, and spending time with the family.
Clare Scott – Just taking time to breathe is good, or reading a really bad book in your genre because it makes you angry so you think ‘I CAN do better than this!’ Having a complete (brief) break so you are not compelled by having to write rather by needing to write. Of course, deadlines are really good incentives too ;-) That reminds me too – I have a snippets book in which I paste articles, headlines, piccies from mags or newspapers, and also story comments, that have made me stop and think, or laugh, or have started a storyline germinating. If really stuck I just have a read thru and it’s amazing what thoughts and schemes this triggers.
(Jane here… I love this idea of pasting articles etc…might just pinch it!)
Jean Adams – I go for a walk on a beach, or do a little gardening. Getting out in the fresh air usually helps.
(Jane… Gardening… Jean, come on over, I have weeds that are giving Jack’s beanstalk a run for his money!)
Yvonne Walus – Filling the well depends, to a degree, on what’s currently missing in my life. Sometimes I need an hour listening to 80s music, or a walk on a deserted windy beach, or an evening with friends. Sometimes I need to reconnect with people, hear about their dreams and challenges in order to get inspired about mine. Sometimes I need a “worthy cause” to write about, you know, a theme like “being a mother is more important than being a successful CEO” or “a wise husband makes his wife feel she’s the only women in the world”. And sometimes – most of the time – I just need a good night’s sleep!!!!
Wonderful M&B Historical writer, Sophia James… For me the writing well is filled by exercise. I walk each day for an hour or so and just feel enervated again. With such a sedentary job I think it’s so good to get up and move and feel the air on your face, see the world outside your computer, and shake of all the problems of your hero and heroine. A cup of coffee with a friend comes in a close second!
(Jane… love those coffee moments with you too Sophia!)
Author Nicole Bishop who I’ve known right from my very first Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference… Refilling the well to me is going for a quiet walk, singing, or pottering around at home with no set plans (I’d like to do more of this!)
(Jane…Singing from me… .nope more like warbling)
Rachel Bailey – Reading books by my favourite authors. Watching good movies. Doing things that make my heart sing, like walks on the beach, playing dog-tennis with my dogs, something romantic with dh, stopping to smell the roses.
(Jane…Ah… now I’m getting somewhere. Reading… it figures, writers love to read…Note to self…I MUST read more)
Melissa James – Research is my strongest well-filler, Jane. I read something and get excited – Dark Waltz, for example, is from reading a history text about Napoleon’s secret fleet to invade England. Her Galahad was from a university reader about Aboriginal people being declared dead illegally. A Mother in a Million came from watching a show called Missing, about how missing persons affects those left behind. The Nighthawks series came from research on how espionage works. I’ve applied that, and my history texts on 1800s espionage and a book called “The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Code” to get authenticity. It’s when it’s a subject I can’t research that I get in trouble. I lose enthusiasm, write automatically. Walks, movies, chatting to writer friends.
(Jane…research….ah that sparks something deep inside this writer who would have loved to be a history teacher…Note to self- find a book to read that is research!)
Okay, so it seems to me that I have a lesson to learn here. Stop. Smell the roses. Maybe garden a tad, have coffee, read a book or two, but perhaps I’ll pass on the singing, don’t want to frighten the dog!
Now, think I’ll go and put on the kettle for a cuppa. But seriously, I’ve learned my lesson. Go back and enjoy books, because isn’t that why we became writers in the first place.
Happy reading everyone.
Bio: In books Author Jane Beckenham discovered dreams and hope, stories that inspired in her a love of romance and happy ever after. Years later, after a blind date, Jane found her own true love and married him eleven months later.
Life has been a series of ‘dreams’ for Jane. Dreaming of learning to walk again after spending years in hospital. Dreaming of raising a family and subsequently flying to Russia to bring home her two adopted daughters. And of course, dreaming of writing. Writing has become Jane’s addiction – and it sure beats housework.