The Writer's Process: Learning Curves Like Kentucky Hills

I spent a handful of my formative years in Kentucky. Rolling hills lush and green, thick with wildlife and the endless white fences of horse farms.
And beneath those hills, I also learned, lurked some of the most majestic limestone caverns in the world. Frozen Niagara is a sight everyone should get to experience once. (I'll be geeky for a moment; Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world. There's a photo gallery there.)


I've discovered that the geography seems to resonate with my experiences as a writer. In everything we do, there's a learning curve. Some catch on quickly, their curve is steep like the sky-piercing peaks of Glacier National Park in the Rockies, or Mount Everest in the Himalayas.

Oh, but not so I. Granted, I can grasp the information and store it away in the back of my brain...little good it does if it's not used, if it's not actively applied to the task.

But the limestone caverns I fall into through the unexpected sinkholes are so beautiful! Oh, are we supposed to be going up? Because I think I'll just sit here and look at the mineral deposits and admire the beauty of nature for a while, thanks...
Art Inspires Art
Totally off the intended path by a sizable chunk of altitude and never mind the rest of it.

When it comes to artistry, I've always been rather slow on the uptake. It took a long time for me to figure out that I needed to find my own way, my own style. It's taking me a good bit of time to accept that technique and process are just as unique to a writer as well. I'm still learning. Like the rolling, endless hills of Kentucky, I'm taking it one chunk at a time and exploring it thoroughly, making it my own.

Sometimes it's exhausting. Others, it feels futile. My self-confidence slips and I get frustrated, feel like I'm throwing time and effort after foolishness.
And then I catch a glimpse of something beautiful, like a flare of color at sunset, and it grounds me again. I'm not doing it wrong, I'm just learning what the right way to do it is for me.
Finding Inspiration
The idea that I can do it the same way as any other artist and produce comparable quality is one that I've resisted abandoning. "It works so well for them, it should work for me too!" Letting it go has taken a great deal of time and effort in itself.

There's no quick answer or simple solution, there's no formula to use.
There are tools though, but like the rest of it they won't all be useful. Some will produce better results--with less effort--than others, and the only way to know which will do this is to try different ones. Not necessarily the ones that work for other artists.

When a tool is a good fit, it often sparks a maelstrom of inspiration and artistic energy. Those are the ones you tuck away and use again and again. Sometimes it's virtually impossible to explain how it works, or why. Sometimes it just works and someone valiantly attempting to dissect the mystery to recreate it elsewhere results in abject failure.
Beauty Found In Detail
What I've discovered as one of my greatest tools is surrounding myself with art. I have found that I can tap into the artistic efforts and inspirations of others somehow. Not through mimicry or copying, mind. In fact I choose, with deliberation and focused intent, those pieces of art that are in mediums wholly removed from my personal endeavors as a writer.

Perhaps it's a form of magic, or maybe I'm transforming them into horcruxes...

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