New York Times bestselling author Joan Johnston talks about the need for writers to "give yourself the opportunity to fill the well so you have something to write about," in the latest issue of Romance Writers Report. I found this so inspiring. Writers cave up, have endless deadlines, and tell victory stories about how many days in a row it's been since they've showered. Many of us, no matter our endeavors, stick our noses to the grindstones and then proudly compare how little nose we have left.
Stop it. Fill the well. Writers, if the only world you have to write about is the Bermuda Triangle of your desk-couch-fridge, I'm sorry but that book is not going to sell. Everyone else, you know you need to go have a good time.
Here are ways I like to #fillthewell. I've included A TON of links. I hope they help you discover your own inspiration!
I'm a huge fan of museum gazing in the winter time because you get shelter, exercise, and inspiration for a modest price. Here in the D.C.-area, where we have an embarrassment of museum riches, many of our museums are free. A friend and I recently went to the Smithsonian's Freer|Sackler, which has an incredible collection of Asian art. There we saw Buddhas and Chinese wine cups and dazzling Indian jewelry and the beautifully carved heads of pharaohs. Did you know that some Buddhists venerated a Lord of Burning Desire? I didn't either. But that's the kind of useful inspiration you can get when you go to your local museum.
My responsibilities as a volunteer force me to step away from my writer's desk and provide that glow that comes with giving time instead of getting paid for it. I've served as a docent at the Hillwood Museum in northwest D.C. for a year and that beautiful house and gardens have provided so much inspiration. I've learned a ton about strong women who can buy their own fancy houses, about the joy of sharing what you know with others, and about the pleasure of strolling through a greenhouse dripping with orchids and pretending -- just for a second -- that it belongs to you.
I want to insert this in here before I give the impression that I only enjoy heady pursuits. I like booze. I like to learn about the origin and creation of various alcohols, I like to read about burgeoning alcohol trends, I like to experiment with my own concoctions, and I like to have long-winded conversations about how cocktails are made. And I like to drink them. One of my favorite places to do all of the above is the Dogwood Tavern. Dogwood is the kind of place where the bartenders remember you, remember your drink of choice, make it spectacularly, and whip up a concoction with you if you catch them when it's slow. They'll also give you a pleasing nickname if you're a regular. Ours is "Angeleter."
I also enjoy wine. This is my stepfather's fault. In 2009, my parents bought a 6.5-acre property in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley and started Gantz Family Vineyards. Suddenly I, who'd had a passing interest in wine, was part of a family that grew Pinot Noir grapes in one of the premiere Pinot Noir regions in the country. Things got much, much worse when they asked me to help them market the vineyard, and suddenly I had to learn about wine and winegrape growing in order to be able to communicate vaguely intelligently about it for their website and social media. This window into this incredible world helped inspire my latest book, The Billionaire's Prince, and the follow-up book that I'll begin in February. Here in D.C., my go-to spot for getting educated (and inspired) about wine is the the Capital Wine School. I rave more about it here.
I love my husband and my kids and my family. But I would be nothing without my friends. My friends are a wonderful pressure valve from the rest of my life, and whether they provide me tips on the writing industry or help me understand my kids better or share in a laugh and a glass of wine, they inspire me and help calm me so I can be open to inspiration. Some of my dearest friends can inspire you, too!
- Parenting coach Paige Trevor - Paige and I bonded over a shared love of this Jonathan Rhys Meyers lip bite 15 years ago and we've never looked back. Through classes, seminars, and one-on-one sessions, she helps parents understand the connection between an organized house and a calm and content family. As a Certified Parent Educator with PEP, Paige has trained over 1500 parents in the Washington, D.C.- area. Her weekly blog, Nifty Tips, is a funny, heartfelt, tough-love dose of realistic parenting advice.
- Author Sharon Wray - Sharon is the most generous soul I know, and a large portion of the romance writing world would agree with me. Sharon is a fount of selfless information and good cheer and believed in me as a writer when I didn't believe in myself. Her book, Every Deep Desire, a genre-bending romantic suspense reunion story set in Georgia swamps that hide a deeper, darker world, will come out on March 6.
- Life coach Wendy Reed - Wendy is the dear friend who introduced me to the concept of "living with intention." Living with intention means you live life proactively -- you choose to pursue a career as a creative professional or flirt more with your husband or be patient with your children -- rather than living life reactively, getting batted along the path that life chooses. Wendy is now taking this philosophy into her work as a professional life coach, helping people discover their own intentional life and then helping them figure out how to make it a reality.
Not all of my filling of the well is done out and about. I spend an impressive amount of time luxuriating in my pajamas and yoga pants. Podcasts give me inspiration when I'm emptying the dishwasher or walking the dog. My three recent favorites are:
- The Thirst Aid Kit - "Thirsting," as used by these brilliant hosts, is the act of desiring, crushing, lusting from afar that women do so well. This podcast honors that thirst -- an act that has sustained the movie industry and keeps the publishing industry afloat -- with intelligent, diversity-aware, and screamingly funny conversations about the people we thirst for and why.
- Girl in Space - Girl in Space is an audio drama about a girl in space, written and performed by a girl. This act should not seem so revolutionary. And yet this podcast has such a unique, interesting, wise, and funny point of view of sci-fi and space travel and story telling that it does seem revolutionary.
- The Wicked Wallflowers Club - I have been endlessly tweeting about this new podcast devoted to taking the shame out of romance reading. As I've said endlessly on Twitter, this podcast is like grabbing a coffee with your favorite author and smartest friends and talking about what makes romance novels great.