Erin Cleary

CHILDREN'S BOOK WRITER
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FOCUS

I have a piece of stone that I found somewhere; I don’t remember where. It is a flat piece of slate that has a flat edge on which it can stand. I don’t know why I’ve carried this thing around for years, moving it from one place to another in my office, except that it has an interesting shape. Now I have a use for it. It is truly a “blank slate” that will be a place to display my inspirational word for the year: FOCUS. It will remind me that I don’t need to check my email for the 100th time and should allow myself time when I can’t be pulled away by whatever other distraction comes up.

In an attempt to clear the bustling in my brain, I sat down to make a list of all the things I need to focus on to be (or prove that I am) a writer. I couldn't believe that when I stopped to review my list, "writing" was in the seventh spot. SEVENTH!!! Clearly my focus has been off, and I need to prioritize so I can get in the habit of making actual writing the center of my efforts. The challenge is to keep up with all the other stuff—the learning, reading, researching, querying, social-media-presence-creating—and still make writing come first. There will always be other distractions too, like when I finally push items 1-6 to the side and I’m writing and …


Wait…


Excuse me a minute…


…My 7-year-old just came in to ask if the word buttcheeks is a compound word. Buttcheeks?

Butt cheeks? I'll have to look that up....


What was I saying again? Oh, “focus,” was it?


Yes, that really happened. And it happens all the time, proving that to focus this year will be as challenging a goal as it always has been.


I participated in StoryStorm this month. This is a yearly challenge to come up with one picture book story idea per day for the entire month of January. I’ve learned this month that generating ideas is not a challenge for me; they pop into my head all day long. As of this last day of January, I have amassed 80 separate ideas. On any given day that I have scanned the list, I see about 20 different ideas that are actionable. They’re not always the same 20 ideas, so that tells me that I’ll never be lacking for something to write in the coming months.


Writing and creating are continually at the forefront of my brain, even when I don’t have the time to sit down and work on a story. There are other necessary things to do to improve as a writer, but in the end, the stories won’t write themselves! Just thinking about writing is not enough. The challenge will be to take these ideas and FOCUS them. If it’s easy to come up with ideas, then my brain will keep doing it. Now I’ll have to turn that part of my brain off (or at least turn the volume down a bit) to do the work of writing. That is the most exciting part anyway. Feeling the story unfold and finding the words to express a vision is a thrill that can compare to few other things. The only other thing I can think of is the feeling when performing an incredible piece of music with a choir where the singers are so deep in listening to (focused on) one another that we are transported to another world.


My good news for the month is that an agent I have queried has asked to see more of my work. This is an important next step! Whether or not she is interested in my additional submissions, I’ll come away knowing that I can get to this next step and closer to the ultimate goal of getting published. No matter what, I’m going to keep writing, improve my focus, and continue to be excited by the creative process I love so much.

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