Last Call: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Words from Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, PubCrawl’s Book of the Month. Photograph of woman and illustrations of flowers (1 + 2) used via Public Domain.

In Shades of Milk and Honey, Jane Ellsworth lives in an alternate version of Regency England, one where magic is a part of everyday life and any respectable lady is skilled in the manipulation of glamour. The thought-provoking quote above suggests that the presence of passion separates art from technique, which got us thinking about creative burnout.

Tell us: How do you stay passionate about your writing (or other creative ventures)? Can you see a notable difference between the words you write while inspired, and the words you capture even though your muse has fled?

Like always, leave your answers below, or share longer responses in a blog post on your own blog, linking back to it via the comments.


12 Responses to Last Call: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

  1. Sooz Mar 29 2013 at 8:38 am #

    Yes! I SO absolutely agree with this. I actually have a post coming up for Monday (about staying passionate and enthusiastic!! So PERFECT timing!) that says, “literally the most important lesson I have ever learned during my writing life is: If you don’t enjoy what you are writing, you are not writing the right story.” I think if you AREN’T impassioned about a scene, it hits the page as lifeless and empty. Mechanically, it might all be fine, but it won’t be a scene that pushes readers emotionally–or YOU emotionally.

    Rachel Aaron, an adult fantasy author who gives FANTASTIC writing advice on her blog, says that you have to find the cookie in each scene–the piece of the scene that gets you excited to write it. If there IS no cookie, then you’re not writing the right scene. She is so, SO right.

    Also, LOVELY graphic. I adore the little flowers at the front.

    • Erin Bowman Mar 29 2013 at 12:44 pm #

      Oooh love that idea of finding the “cookie” in each scene. Can’t wait for your Monday post!

  2. Jaimie M. Engle Mar 29 2013 at 9:15 am #

    Thank you for sharing this.
    I feel that as a writer, it is our duty to WRITE. Whether I want to or not, or feel like it or not, it’s my job. If I treat it this way, I will create. If I wait for inspiration, it will come less and less frequently. Why? Writing is an action, and any action that is not exercised will become rusty. Imagine a surgeon proclaiming he isn’t feeling inspired today, or a teacher calling out, a stockbroker not showing, and a grocery store closed because the manager didn’t feel inspired to be there.
    Now, when it comes to WHAT I’m writing about, I believe it MUST be led by passion. I would not write a novel based off of a trend, or off of a friend’s suggestion. I have found, however, that when I do write things outside of my norm (, writing exercises,, etc) I come up with unique stories that I never would have discovered on my own. Pushing myself, like I would as a runner, not waiting for inspiration, has given me some of my best short stories.
    So, yes, while I feel passion is important, I think many writers place too much emphasis on it, like it’s a shrine to be opened, when in reality, some days we just have to write.

    • Erin Bowman Mar 29 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      I write *almost* every day, but there are times when the words don’t flow and I let myself step away to recharge my batteries. I think I’m finally seeing that I don’t have to be actively writing to be *working.* Brainstorming and staring out the window, watching a TV show with great dialog, reading other stories…it’s all writing in a way bc it fuels my work. (But that’s just my school of thought. Which is why no one person’s process is wrong.)

      That said, I 100% agree more with –> “Now, when it comes to WHAT I’m writing about, I believe it MUST be led by passion.” Amen. I think that is the key, always. Some days the writing won’t be as easy as others. But if you’re passionate about the story, you’ll find a way to tell it. Thanks for chatting about this with us!

  3. Alexa Y. Mar 29 2013 at 10:51 am #

    I usually end up becoming passionate about my writing when I take a step back. Sometimes, I get too overwhelmed by all the stuff that I’m doing (writing-wise), that it’s nice just to step back and take a breather and do other things – listen to music, travel, watch television or read books. I find that it helps me gain a new perspective sometimes when I explore other people’s creations.

    There’s definitely a strong difference between the results of when I’m writing under inspiration and when I make myself write. The flow is usually very stunted with the stuff I make myself write when I don’t feel like it, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t usable. Whether or not I’m inspired though, I’m thinking it’s always important to just keep writing 😉

    • Erin Bowman Mar 29 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      YA Highway did a post recently about how “it’s all writing” … even staring out the window to daydream. It really resonated with me, bc I share your philosophy. Sometimes time away is exactly what you need to then write like the wind. Outside experience can also lead to new ideas/inspiration. I need to stop giving myself such a hard time when I take a day off 😉

  4. Diana Mar 29 2013 at 11:26 am #

    As I enter the home stretch of the first-novel-I’m-coming-anywhere-close-to-finishing, I think I’ve finally hit on what makes the passion “stay” for me: theme. If all that enchants me is the plot or the world or the characters, once I hit a slump I’m not going back. But when I have a strong theme–something about the novel that speaks to me–I find it so easy to hurry back to the piece, even after weeks (or months!) have gone by with nothing.

    I also find I work best with themes that are close to my heart. When I tried to stuff a theme I didn’t care about into a piece, even though it was a piece that fit the theme, the thing died right away. As a Christian, I usually find myself called to themes like redemption and unconditional love. When I put the right theme in there, the characters and plot grow up around it.

    • Erin Bowman Mar 29 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      I totally agree that a theme that speaks to you, as the writer, can definitely help the words flow more easily. That said, I tend to stumble upon my themes midway through drafting. (I don’t always know exactly what the core message of the story is until I’ve written it, if that makes sense.) But then that theme can fuel me through revisions…And boy can the revising stage last forever. 😉

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Kim Mar 29 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    I love the quote and the graphic is beautiful!

    I love to write, but there are times when I get a little stuck and can’t be sure what the next move will be for a story. If that happens, I usually have a backup project (like a short story or outlining another story) that I can work on. Or, if I just don’t feel right about writing right then — if I’m not loving it or passionate about it, it comes out all wrong — the next best thing is picking up a book. Reading always makes me passionate about writing again. I like to read books that are completely unrelated to what I’m writing (like a fantasy when I’m writing a contemporary YA) and that always helps. Just reading can start to get the juices flowing again.

  6. Rosanna Silverlight Mar 29 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    I’ve learned that when it comes to writing, if I’m not passionate about what I’m writing, then I just won’t write it. I won’t start in the first place, or I won’t finish it. Back when I was a student I thought about becoming a journalist, but I never actually went down that path. I wasn’t *passionate* about journalism, so I wasn’t interested in doing it.

    Writing stories is different. I love the act of turning a beautiful idea into a beautiful story, even if it is hard work sometimes. That’s where passion vs. technique comes in, because of course I don’t feel passionate ALL the time when I write. But I try to keep the beautiful idea intact in my mind, so it can be the object – the focus – of everything I’m doing – the blood, sweat and tears that go into writing it down and crafting it word by word, scene by scene, into a story that does more than simply hold together and work: one that sings as well. It takes a lot of hard graft, and it doesn’t always go well. Sometimes I fail: the story fails because the idea is half baked, or for some other reason.

    There is also the part where I give myself permission to write terribly – but passionately. I get the idea down as fast as possible and then go back over it. On the first pass the passion is fierce and bold; on the second it’s more studied and slow-burning. And that’s usually when I succeed in turning the idea into the (sometimes beautiful) story. 🙂

  7. cait Mar 29 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    My words mostly feel the same…inspired or missing-muse. The difference for me is how much I enjoy it. I have to pour hours into my writing, so why would I do that when the muse is gone and I’m having a terrible time? Plus I warm up! Nothing like a few thousand words to get you motivated. If I’m too uninspired, I go read some good books and watch some movies.

  8. Shawna Reppert Mar 30 2013 at 12:34 am #

    I have found the muse smiles upon me most when I pay proper homage to her: maintaining a writing schedule, working hard and studying craft. Sounds dull and uninspired, but leads to glorious, in-the-flow, heart-pounding writing moments that I am convinced would not happen if I expected the muse to come to me.

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