It should come as no surprise that what started me on my journey to become a writer was reading books that inspired me to create something of my own. It started with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as a kid, and then my inspiration came from The Lord of the Rings in high school, and then Howl’s Moving Castle in college. For several years after reading Diana Wynne Jones’ work for the first time, I failed to find much inspiration in what I was reading. Not that what I was reading was bad—just the opposite—only… there was nothing that really inspired me, nothing that made me think wow, I wish I could write like this, or I want to build a world as vivid as the one in this book.
Books like that are what I live for—what I yearn for. I love to fall into stories that inspire me, that make me want to be a better writer, that give me the encouragement to go forth and write new words. And when I go a long time without reading something like that, my inspiration well often starts to dry up. I no longer have this OMG I have to write this book feeling anymore because I’ve lost the magic of falling in love with whatever book made me want to work harder to finish my story.
And it’s hard not having that drive anymore. I still write. But the longer I go without refilling that inspiration well, the harder it is to write, to feel like what I’m doing is worthwhile. It’s easy for me to lose confidence and to forget why I ever wanted to write this story in the first place.
Not a good place to be.
But then I find a book—the book—to refill that well of inspiration and remind me that what I am doing is amazing and worthwhile, a book that shows me that it can be done, that my story is worth writing, worth sharing.
The most recent book series that did this for me was The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson. This was around the beginning of last year, while I was busy revising the first draft of The Wizard’s Heart, before all of my lamentable woes regarding the book that have happened since. This was before my editor roasted my characters and world-building, before beta-readers slashed through the arteries of my writing soul, before doubt and pain and fear crept in. This was when I was still optimistic about publishing a novel within the next few months.
Nevertheless, revisions were slow-going, and while I hadn’t yet reached the place of fear that I’m currently experiencing, I did worry that my book wasn’t good enough, that no one would like it, that it wasn’t marketable—all the doubts most any writer experiences at some time or another.
And then I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns.
I devoured that book. I lived in it. It was the best thing I had read since Howl’s Moving Castle, at least in terms of how it allowed me to escape so fully into a world not my own. I could imagine it in my head just as vividly as anything I had created, perhaps even more so.
And that inspired me—to the point that I had this driving urge to finish The Wizard’s Heart like never before and get it published. The Girl of Fire and Thorns was so much like what I wanted to accomplish with The Wizard’s Heart—it was a non-standard fantasy in a non-white, non-European setting, with a beautifully tragic story full of heartache, pain, struggle, and bittersweet victory. It was everything that I wanted The Wizard’s Heart to be and more, showing me that a book like mine could succeed. And for a moment, it silenced my fears.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns became the baseline for what I wanted The Wizard’s Heart to be, in the level of storytelling, the level of writing, the level of emotion—all of it.
However, somewhere along the way, I forgot that. I lost that inspiration. Perhaps my lofty ambitions were the ultimate cause of the imminent fall to where I am now. The truth is: I’m not that good. My book isn’t as good. And I don’t know if I can be. I don’t know if I’m capable of actually producing a book that is as beautiful as The Girl of Fire and Thorns was to me. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.
Remembering that feeling—that intoxicating level of inspiration that I got while reading those books—it makes me want to work even harder than before to deliver on those early ambitions, to really make The Wizard’s Heart as wonderful as I want it to be.
And maybe it won’t be as good as The Girl of Fire and Thorns. But if I put my heart into it, if I make an effort to put every last hope and dream and shred of inspiration into my words, if I bleed my soul onto the page, it will be a book that I can be proud of.
I have spent too long tearing away The Wizard’s Heart, focusing on everything that is wrong, every flaw, every mistake, that I have lost sight of all the good inside the book, all the love that I poured into it. I lost sight of its potential; I lost sight of its beauty.
So now I’m going to go curl up with my copy of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and I’m going to find that inspiration again. I’m going to fill up the well within my writing soul, and then I’m going to feed every last bit of it back into The Wizard’s Heart and make the book beautiful again, fill its pages with every last bit of myself, so I can be sure that when I finally publish that book, it’s something that I can be proud of—because it’s a part of me.