By Lu Ann Staheli
I once attended a lecture by noted children’s author Kimberly Willis Holt in which she told the audience about the book that inspired her to write: If You Can Talk, You Can Write:
A Proven Program to Get You Writing & Keep You Writing by Joel Saltzman.
I already had the book in my personal collection of writing instruction texts, so I got it out and started reading.
Saltzman’s ideas were simple, and I found myself sometimes guilty of them:
• Writers love to complain about writing and they will do anything to avoid it.
• “Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on.”—John Steinbeck
• “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”—Robert Frost
• When in doubt, throw it out.
• Write a page a day. Make writing a part of your daily routine.
• Stop abandoning your writing at the first sign of trouble.
Reading Saltzman’s book inspired me to consider another author who was inspiring to me—Gary Paulsen. His semi-autobiographical novel Harris and Me was the inspiration for my own first novel, Leona and Me, Helen Marie. As Paulsen’s story told about his summer spent with his cousin on the farm, my novel wove the events of a year of my mother and aunt’s childhood growing up in Southern Indiana during the Depression into a completed manuscript.
Writers gather inspiration from all over the place. Every piece we write—fiction or non-fiction, short or long—has its inspiration from somewhere, even when sometimes we don’t recognize it.
As you write this week—and if you are following the advice from Saltzman’s book you will write this week—think about the place where your inspiration is coming from. It might just be a goldmine where you find your next character, scene, or entire novel.