These past few months have forced me to slow down. To think things through. To practice letting go. (I was cleaning the garage and ran across my beloved Away suitcase and it took me a second to recognize what it was!) Lily LaMotte visits today in celebration of her graphic novel, Measuring Up, illustrated by Ann Xu (HarperCollins/Harper Alley) and to share some good advice about balancing our responses to this pandemic with our efforts to create. Read on for Lily’s insights then hurry to your local indie to order her engaging book!
Happy Friday! Thank you, Kirby, for having me!
Taped to my wall is a sheet of paper repeating “Trust the Process” several times going from a huge, can’t-miss-font down to a regular 12 point.
I heard this on a learn-to-run video. The instructor repeated this mantra throughout the course. I don’t have a whole lot of large motor skills so learning to run has been a multi-year struggle but I’m learning to trust the process.
I also trust the process in my writing. There are times, many times, when I feel doubtful that I can write a sentence, a paragraph, a page. Then I remind myself to trust the process and take a deep breath. Maybe go take a power nap and just maybe after the nap, I channel Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Literature and a believer of writing in bed, to stay in bed and write.
For me, part of trusting the process also means deliberate practice. K Anders Ericsson researched expertise and human performance. He found that we learn to master a skill through practice. But not just any practice. We have to seek feedback and correction so that we don’t practice mistakes over and over again which instills the mistakes deeper. So, I’m always taking in-person classes which we can’t do right now, webinars which have become the medium of choice, reading craft books, and even went back to school in Hamline’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adult. I also have three wonderful weekly critique groups where I submit my work and get feedback. I will take the same pages back to my critique groups week after week. They are very patient. And each time, my pages get a little better. Many times, a little worse. But ultimately, they get closer to what they could and should be.
Another part to trusting the process is deep work. Cal Newport writes about it in his book Deep Work. He defines it as doing hard, challenging work with great concentration and focus. Writing definitely fits that definition. Newport talks about several methods to achieve this state. Out of these strategies, I would love to be like Carl Jung isolating himself at his country home in Bollingen to do deep work. But lacking my own Bollingen, I planned to create my own by buying a cargo van so that I could go to a campground and write with no distractions. I managed the first step by getting a cargo van right before the Covid shutdown. I am grateful that I was able to write in my van while social distancing at home in my driveway. I was able to finish my second graphic novel script during the shutdown.
Lastly, I think trusting the process also means small steps. Whether the small step is writing a new sentence or a new page. Even something as small as revising just one word on the page counts.
For me, those are the things that have helped me write and finish books. Still my process isn’t easy or a panacea. I still struggle.
And if you’re wondering if I finally learned to run, I’m stuck on week four. But, trust the process, right? I’ll repeat the week again and again until I get through it and can move forward.
Lily LaMotte is the debut author of MEASURING UP with HarperCollins/HarperAlley. When she isn’t writing picture books and middle grade graphic novels, she’s cooking up new recipes. Sometimes, when she sees the gray clouds outside her window in the Pacific Northwest, she loads up the campervan for a writing retreat camping trip with her husband and two dogs.
Lily LaMotte has an MFA from Hamline’s Writing for Children and Young Adults. She is passionate about supporting libraries and is a King County Library System Foundation Board member. She was also on the SCBWI Western WA advisory committee for many years. You can learn more about Lily on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.