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7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Trebor Healey

3. Use public transportation and talk to strangers. There’s a wealth of material out there on the bus. It’s where I learned about dog exorcism and the training regimen of a boxer. You can even try out your own characters with random people. You can be anybody on a bus—it’s quite liberating. Use it as a classroom and approach people who you might never meet in your daily routine. And listen, listen. I guarantee you if you just ride a bus around for an hour, a short story or two will emerge. GIVEAWAY: Trebor is excited to give away a free copy of his novel, FAUN, to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: LynnFlickinger1 won.)

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by novelist Trebor Healey) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent -- by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

GIVEAWAY: Trebor is excited to give away a free copy of his novel, FAUN, to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: LynnFlickinger1 won.)

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Recipient of the 2004 Ferro-Grumley and Violet Quill awards for
his first novel, Through It Came Bright Colors, Trebor Healey is
also the author of the novel, A Horse Named Sorrow. His latest
novel is FAUN (Lethe, Oct. 2012), which Publishers Weekly said
"will appeal strongly to grown fans of supernatural YA."

1. Be bold. Write about absolutely everything. Especially things that make you feel uncomfortable. You don’t have to share it if you don’t want to, but you might be surprised to find your boldest voice is often your most attractive one. I’ve found this to be true in several cases. It can also lead to breakthroughs as boldness effectively overcomes the inner critic/editor and sets loose the inner maniac, who is very much worth listening to!

2. Do other art or view other art. Sometimes what inspires breakthroughs in writing is creativity expressed non-verbally. Dance, painting, architecture, photography, film. For me I think modern dance is the best as it gets me out of my head completely and puts me in the flow. The idea is to access your right brain from another angle. But it also enriches your work. I do collage and I find it a great complement to writing as it’s a similar form but without words.

(How to help an author promote their new book: 11 tips.)

3. Use public transportation and talk to strangers. There’s a wealth of material out there on the bus. It’s where I learned about dog exorcism and the training regimen of a boxer. You can even try out your own characters with random people. You can be anybody on a bus—it’s quite liberating. Use it as a classroom and approach people who you might never meet in your daily routine. And listen, listen. I guarantee you if you just ride a bus around for an hour, a short story or two will emerge.

4. Exercise, recreate. They don’t call it recreation for nothing. When you’re stuck, uninspired, struggling with a character or scene, I think the absolute best thing you can do is go grab some fresh air and get your blood moving, preferably in nature. But a swimming pool will do, even a run, and especially a sauna. You can get to a mini trance that is ideal for breakthroughs, along the lines of a dream. This is one reason for the sweat lodge tradition in many indigenous cultures:

5. Travel, move, shake it up. If a hike or swim or sauna doesn’t prove enough—and there was a time it didn’t for me—go on an adventure if you can. I went to Argentina for a year and it so rearranged my head that I had multiple creative breakthroughs and was able to finish two books. There is something about being in a new place that heightens your senses and wakes you up and opens you up. It’s hugely valuable. But do avoid tourist destinations as they re-create the somnolence you’re trying to escape. The point is to step out of your comfort zone and see the world anew. Go alone if you can.

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6. Learn another language. I’d been a student of Spanish for years but it wasn’t until I made up my mind to become fluent that I realized its benefit to me as a writer. To be able to communicate in another language gets you thinking about how you can best communicate in your own, and how best to say what you want to say. To begin to understand your own language as a particular set of tools that can create something beautiful is not only inspiring, but empowering and enlightening. Studies have also shown bilingualism is good for your brain as you learn to cognitively jump back and forth, which is why there’s also evidence it prevents Alzheimer’s.

7. Celebrate your success. Too often writers don’t. And it doesn’t mean you have to have a party. I sometimes think a reading tour is the best way to enjoy the publication of a book. The key is to do the tour on your own terms. I rarely fly because airports are a drag. I grab a chunk of time, rent a car and visit friends in faraway places so that it ends up a celebration not just of the book, but of my life and how I like to live it. The open road can be so inspiring. This was the point of being a writer for me: to be a traveling bard. Whatever it is you want from being a writer, grab that and live it as your reward for having done the work.

GIVEAWAY: Trebor is excited to give away a free copy of his novel, FAUN, to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: LynnFlickinger1 won.)


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