SCBWI Summer 2012 Recap: Stand There and Shine

Karen Cushman delivered a keynote address during the SCBWI 2012 Summer Conference that was brimming with inspiration and wisdom. Here’s a bit of what she shared.

Stand There and Shine

Ms. Cushman began her talk by telling us that every word she writes, every character she creates, every idea she explores, she offers from her heart to her readers. “The function of freedom is to free someone else,” said Toni Morrison. Ms. Cushman believes this is what books and stories do.

She encouraged writers to make up their own rules, or to have no rules. She said to listen to the inaudible voices. Ask questions that might have surprising answers. Ask questions you don’t know the answers to. Be willing to stray from outlines.

Ms. Cushman believes writing creatively requires reading creatively, and that means reading ourselves creativity. The only way to do this, is to shut down the voice of the inner critic and listen to the inner editor instead. The voice of the inner editor gives guidance, not discouragement.

“Sometimes,” Ms. Cushman said, “it is necessary to write. Sometimes to pull weeds.” Slow down and let ideas percolate. As soon as you trust yourself, you’ll know how to write.

She quoted Anne Lamott: “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

That’s what we need to do, and what we need to let our stories do.

Stand there and shine.