Thursday, September 22, 2011
Interview with Cheryl Shireman
Cheryl is a prolific best-selling writer who has harnessed her creativity to produce compelling fiction and nonfiction. But that's enough of telling. In her interview, she vividly describes her methods for keeping creative energy flowing.
Since my blog is about creativity, I'm especially interested in your creative process as a writer and also how you came to develop and believe in your creativity.
Would you describe yourself as a creative child? Did you make up stories or express creativity in other ways?
I was an only child and if an only child wants to play, they very often have to be creative. I spent a lot of time outside exploring our yard. It was only two acres, but the back of the property used to be a peach orchard, so there were old peach trees to climb and lots of room to roam. Inside the house, I used to play "farm animals" a lot. Farm animals were cheap little plastic animals that you could buy in a bag at any grocery store. I set up fences for them and created worlds where a family took care of their horse ranch during the day and also had time to visit the dinosaur farm and zoo right down the road.
What inspired you to write your first book, Life is But a Dream?
One day I started thinking about how our lives are often defined by our circumstances and we can make informed and empowered decisions, or we can merely float along. I wondered what would happen to a woman who suddenly lost everything that defined her life. I imagined a woman who has given her life to others. She is a devoted wife and mother, but when her husband files for divorce and her daughter leaves for college, she realizes her own life no longer has meaning. Just to make it even more interesting, I wanted the main character to be in unfamiliar surroundings so I placed her, Grace Adams, in a secluded lake cabin. Then I started writing, watching as Grace's life unfolded before me. It was a lot of fun to write and I came to really love Grace.
Your own main character is highly creative when it comes to dreaming up things to fear. What interested you about developing that character?
I think we all have fears; Grace just has a tendency to allow those fears to take form in her mind, creating problems that may never arise. She can also be quite funny in her musings. I love being able to get into such a character's mind. I have received many emails from readers telling me they love Grace and can relate to her. I just received one the other day from a reader who told me that she lost sleep over her book because she stayed up until three in the morning to finish it! That is the ultimate compliment for a writer.
What methods do you use to enhance your creativity (i.e., certain music, total solitude, etc.)?
I like to write the first thing in the morning, when I am as close to the sleep state as possible. I pull on the most comfortable clothes I can find (usually one of my husband's sweatshirts, a baggy pair of yoga pants, and an old pair of hiking socks), wad my hair up in a ponytail, and start writing. For years I wrote in longhand, but now I do all of my writing on my laptop. I have a desk, but I like to write on a couch with my feet up on an ottoman. Comfort is important. I also like solitude and silence. If I have any music on, it is usually soft classical music like Vivaldi. I can't listen to any music with words when I write. It is distracting. As the writing gets intense, I may even turn that off. I also love to write for long periods of time whenever possible. When I am writing, I very often work ten or twelve hours a day. These are my ideal writing conditions now, but as a mother of three, I seldom had those. I once wrote in a Chucky Cheese while my kids played nearby with probably fifty other kids. Now, that’s concentration!
How do you get yourself back in motion when you get stuck?
I don't get stuck. I don't believe in writer's block. Even when the words don't want to come, I write something. It might be notes, or brainstorming, or words that I will end up deleting, but I keep writing because you never know when a gem might be discovered. But I also believe in the value of long hot baths when the writing seems to be a mere trickle instead of a constant flow.
Do you feel that being an indie writer gives you greater scope for your creativity and literary imagination?
I love being an indie writer! I have total freedom to write the books that I want to write. I am now working with a professional editor and really feel this is the very best situation for me. I have just rereleased the professionally edited version of my first novel (now titled Life Is But a Dream: On the Lake) and am about to release the edited version of my second novel, Broken Resolutions. I hope to release the second of the Grace Adams Series this fall. And then I will start a new novel after the first of the year that I am already very excited about. The ability to publish independently has opened a whole new world for me. I am living my dreams.
What advice would you give someone who is hesitant to express his/her creative urges?
Nike said it better than I can - Just do it. I believe everyone is born with a purpose. There is a reason you are on this earth. If you have creative urges, they are there for a reason. Don't ignore them. Nurture them and bring them to fruition. It won't be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Your talent, your creativity, is unique to only you. If you don't express it, it will never be expressed, and the world will be a poorer place. Just do it.
Life is But a Dream: On the Lake
You Don't Need a Prince: A Letter to My Daughter