I was asked recently by my colleagues in the SCBWI-Oregon region to share some inspirational thoughts for authors and illustrators. I am happy to share these remarks with a wider audience:
Read. Read as much and as often as you can. Read books within the genre and style in which you write. Read books in genres and styles with which you’re less comfortable. Read aloud – from books you love, from books you don’t love, and from your own work – to learn about voice and narrative flow. Read in order to become a stronger writer.
Explore & Expand. Explore all options for yourself as a writer or illustrator—explore creative options and publishing options. Expand your thinking as a creative person to try new styles in your own work. Explore new avenues for the exchange of ideas and for inspiration, be it through social networking, critique groups, conferences. Expand yourself and expand your art – try something you’ve never tried before in your writing or artwork.
Adapt. Adapt to change. The creative environment and the publishing environment are underdoing significant changes right now and it’s critical to remain as adaptable as possible. Be flexible and open to new ideas, new strategies, and new business models. Be flexible and open to new approaches to your own work. Adapting to the new environments in which we live and work doesn’t mean giving up any creative instincts; rather, it means expanding the possibilities for yourself and your work.
Diligence. Be diligent with your craft. Practice. Write and rewrite. Sketch and re-sketch. Be as diligent with revision as you are with the first draft of anything you create. And be diligent as the marketplace throws up its barriers: if you get rejected, keep sending out your work; if you get feeback, revise; if you have questions, take time to figure out the answers.
Invest. Invest in your work and in yourself. Figure out what you’re willing to invest in your craft and recognize it as an investment in your future, your career, and your confidence. Investment can be many things: saving up to attend a conference or two throughout the year; working with a freelance editor and designer to ready your work before you submit or self-publish; taking the time to research the marketplace, agents, and publishing options.
Network. Create a network that supports and inspires you. Never before have authors and illustrators had so many opportunities to make contact with each other, with colleagues, and with their audience. Take advantage of the various ways in which social media can expand your reach, your “platform,” and your knowledge. You don’t have to be everywhere in the social network, but it makes sense to be somewhere and to participate in conversations with people whom you might not otherwise meet.
Goals. Set yourself goals that make sense for where you are in your own process. Allow your goals to develop and change as you develop and change, as your work develops and changes. Set manageable goals that you can reach, so you feel good about your progress—and set some goals that are huge, that may feel a little scary, so you can push yourself further and deeper. Goals are met when we’re ready to meet them. Goals are set to inspire us to stay on the road.
(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc. First printed in SCBWI Oregon's NewsWorthy, July-August 2012 edition.