Critically acclaimed author Karen MacInerney also teaches writers’ workshops and drives a mean carpool. Her book Murder on the Rocks was selected as an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. When she’s not writing or chauffeuring children, she loves to read, drink coffee, attempt unusual recipes, and hit the local hike-and-bike trail. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two children, and escapes to Maine as often as possible. Today, Karen, on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, is here discussing what she does when she has a writing drought. Be sure and leave a comment below to be eligible to win a print copy (US only) of DEATH RUNS ADRIFT.
By Karen MacInerney
I experienced a bit of a writing drought this past year – something I’ve been through many times before – and now that I’m back in the saddle again, so to speak, I’ve been thinking a lot about what might have caused it. And how I got out of it.
I think that one of the biggest problems with being a writer, or an artist, or a musician, is the marriage of art and commerce. When we are making things, be they clay pots, poems, stained glass, or novels, if things are going well, we fall into ‘flow’ mode. I’m sure you’ve been there before; it’s that magical state when the world recedes around us and there’s nothing but us and our work, and it’s completely absorbing. When we finally sit up and rejoin the rest of the world, we feel satisfied, at peace.
Some days, it’s harder to get to ‘flow’ than others, but it’s that magical state that makes the experience of making things so satisfying. The problem is, when we start viewing our work as a commodity, a thing to be critiqued and judged, part of our mind is often disconnected. It’s the part that tells us we need to work faster, or that what we’re doing isn’t going to sell, or that we were crazy to have tried a project like this because we don’t know what we’re doing and should just stick to what we know other people like. Or give up on making art altogether, because the sale of a creative product is a risky enterprise.
I’ve heard all of those things inside my head before, particularly when I’ve taken on a particularly challenging project, or one that’s different from what I’m used to doing. And do you know what usually happens when that voice really gets going?
I stop working.
And when I stop working, I stop getting into flow mode. And when I stop getting into flow mode, I lose the habit of getting into flow mode, and start to doubt my work even more. If it goes on long enough I start to think I should switch gears and learn to be a plumber, or refrigerator repair person, or just about anything other than a person who puts words on paper for a living.
Fortunately, so far, I’ve found the strength within myself – and from my community of writers – to pick myself up and get back to the daily practice of writing. I sit down and I write a thousand words a day. They don’t have to be good words. I’m free to delete them the next day (although usually I don’t). But they propel me forward, they let me enjoy that elusive “flow” state, and they make me feel like a writer.
The truth is, whatever my books do when they go out into the world, I’m happiest when I’m writing; I seem to have a supply of creative energy that needs to be expressed, or it turns in on itself (and me) in unpleasant ways. When I make my peace with that, my best work seems free to come out.
Recently, just to shake things up and keep my perspective fresh, I’ve also taken up watercolor. It’s a more kinesthetic art form, and one which (for me, anyway) carries no expectation of financial remuneration. It’s not my “job.” And I’m learning to carry some of that over to my writing, pursuing what inspires me rather than what I “should” be doing.
I’ve ignored my inner voice and followed what I thought was the financially prudent path in my writing career more than once, and each time I have made myself unhappy. It’s when I listen to the wisdom deep inside me and make my creativity a practice that I’m happiest. And when I’m following that inner compass, I feel I tend to do better work.
What’s your creative calling? Have you established a creativity practice in your life? Is there something you’d like to try?
Death Runs Adrift (The Gray Whale Inn Mysteries)
Series: The Gray Whale Inn Mysteries (Book 6)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: MIDNIGHT INK (May 8, 2014)
With her own wedding fast approaching and her mother-in-law dating an unexpected beau, the last thing Natalie Barnes needs is to find a young man shot dead in a dinghy. A note she finds with the body suggests the dearly departed had a secret rendezvous planned with somebody on the island. But when suspicion is cast on a fisherman Natalie believes to be innocent, she begins to wonder if the murder was the result of a lover’s quarrel . . . or a lobsterman’s disagreement gone horribly wrong.
When I read a book for review, I have a notebook by my side. Sadly, the better the book, the fewer the notes – I’m just too into it. Total extent of the notes for this book:
- a tiny island off the coast of Maine
- close to the border of Canada
- the sixth entry in the Gray Whale Inn series
- did I read first one? – it’s on Kindle… get rest of series
- FUN FUN FUN
- great recipes
From my lack of notes, you can assume this was a really, really good book. Natalie Barnes has her wedding plans in place so she has time for other things. Finding a body would not have been top of her list, but that’s what she got. So we have a modern day mystery but running parallel to that is a mystery from back in the twenties – won’t say anymore and spoil it but it is easy to find a bit on the subject here on this blog (hint hint LOL). This is a really great read and stands alone, but like me, you may find yourself wanting to go back and read it from the beginning. ♥♥♥♥♥┼
May 8 – Carstairs Considers – Review, Giveaway
May 9 – Books-n-Kisses – Review, Guest Post
May 10 – Kelly P’s Blog – Interview
May 11 – off – Mother’s Day
May 12 – readalot blog – Review, Giveaway
May 13 – Back Porchervations – Review
May 14 – The Bookwyrm’s Hoard – Review, Guest Post, Giveaway
May 15 –Mommasez…blog – Review, Guest Post, Giveaway
May 16 – Melina’s Book Blog – Review, Giveaway
May 18 – Cozy Up With Kathy – Interview
May 19 – rantin’ ravin’ and reading – Review, Guest Post, Giveaway
May 20 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – Guest Post, Giveaway
May 21 – Community Bookstop – Review
May 22 – Jane Reads – Review, Guest Post, Giveaway
May 23 – Kaisy Daisy’s Corner – Review