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Finding Inspiration – By Julie Cross, Head of South

Camp time is fast approaching and I know many of you are already preparing to dive head first into your creative passion. You already know what you were meant to do and you want to live and breath it this summer.

Guess what? So do I.

Does this mean I plan to spend all my time holed up in whichever room I’m assigned, typing away at the next great American novel? It’s my first summer at Appel Farm so I can’t be sure, but I imagine that would not go over well with the management. And I would lose out on many opportunities to find new inspiration.

As an author of Young Adult literature and as someone who speaks to young writers regularly, I’m often asked questions about finding inspiration and building a writing career. Kids will email me and say things like, “I want to be an author like you, should I pick creative writing for my college major? Should I spend all my free time writing? I’ve been soooo lazy lately, I abandoned my novel to hang out with my friends! I got to the middle of my story and now I’ve lost my inspiration. Do you think I’m ever going to finish it? How behind am I?”

Here’s the thing. An escalating word count does not create inspiration. Inspiration creates words on the page. And paint on the canvas. A song sung with more than perfect pitch. A dance where passion overshadows technique.

My advice regarding this question is and always will be: the best way to find inspiration is by doing. And by doing, I don’t just mean writing or learning about writing.

I mean doing something you never imagined you’d try, hanging out with people who have homes far away from yours, stepping out of your comfort zone, finding new passions, or playing friendly pranks on your counselors (ask YA author, John Green, if his pranking days in boarding school inspired any novels). Regardless of what you choose to study or do at camp this summer, I can guarantee you’ll return home with a story to tell. Probably many many stories to tell.

So yes, I’m a writer. It’s what I live and breathe everyday. But this summer, I’m putting away my laptop and taking on the role of Head of South at Appel Farm. And I’m not stopping there. I plan to try on all kinds of new hats. Perhaps I’ll be a painter for a few hours, learn the correct way to hold an instrument, or stand on the stage and look out at an imaginary audience and…and….well, I’m not sure what will happen, but I can’t wait to find out. And I can’t wait to see each of you find your own moments of inspiration.

Bottom Line: When you’re a writer, you can write about ANYTHING. But if all you do is write, what will inspire your story?

Come to camp ready to show your love for your Art, but also come with an open mind, ready to explore the unknown. Make daily challenges for yourself or simply shut off the voices inside your head telling you to focus on what you already know. Now is the time to do and live and share.

And then you can write about it.