Let me preface this post by saying that I am not a crafty person. I never have been and probably never will be. I can barely cut a straight line. But, after spending a week with my very crafty sister, I came home with my first craft project outside of elementary school–an inspiration board. The idea came for this when I realized that the only objects I feel the slightest bit sentimental about tend to be those associated with my writing life (sorry if that sounds harsh; I simply don’t care that much about objects). I didn’t want to make a scrapbook, though. If I ever arrive at a point in my life where I decide to make a scrapbook, I hope my friends will intervene.
I decided that a board of my accomplishments seemed a bit self-indulgent, so I threw in a few visuals to utilize some of the space as a story board. Now, when I look at my inspiration board, I don’t simply see the things that make me want to pat myself on the back, I see inspiration for future things that will make me want to pat myself on the back.
Here is the board hanging above my desk. Now, whenever I sit at my desk twirling my thumbs instead of writing (or, more accurately, wasting time on the internet reading movie reviews or looking at clothes), I can look up and see that I wrote stuff in the past and maybe, just maybe, I can write something else now. If you look to the left of the picture, you’ll see the cover of my favorite book, The Phantom Tollbooth, as drawn by my sister for a birthday present (see, I told you she was crafty).
I think it is important as a writer (or any other type of artist) to keep visuals of the things that inspire us. I can easily update the board to accommodate whatever project I work on (something fantastical when I write fairy tales, a picture of Raymond Carver when I write realist fiction). And honestly, having a few accomplishments to look at doesn’t hurt either. This writing life is so full of rejection and disappointment that keeping reminders nearby of our accomplishments–however small–can be just the boost we need to face the blank page for another day.
Here is a close-up of my inspiration board. I chose a picture of a peacock woman (it’s an illustration from a Japanese fairy tale) and one of a ship on the sea (promotional material from the book Moby Dick in Pictures) because birds and the sea tend to be my most used motifs. On the left side is the title from a newspaper article I wrote about writers of the west and in the middle is the thank-you card from the organizer of the first writing conference I was a panelist at. When I discussed this board idea with my roommate, I mentioned that I wanted to include my most meaningful rejection letters (you know, those rare non-form letters when you can tell the editor actually read your piece). My roommate seemed surprised that I would want to display my failures so prominently on a board that is meant to inspire me. I had to tell her that in this field you become so accustomed to rejection that a nice rejection is almost as good as an acceptance letter. Almost.
So, if any writers out there are feeling crafty, I suggest trying this out. You can certainly lean to either side of the spectrum–all inspiration or all accomplishment–or you can find a balance. I realize there are websites like Pinterest that offer this same concept in a user-friendly and easily updated electronic version. But there is something to be said about holding a tangible collection of your accomplishments and the visuals that will inspire you to keep writing. Besides, when I had a Pinterest account, all I did was post pictures of clothing I couldn’t afford to buy. This is cheaper in the long run.