Author Molly E. Lee on “The Creative Spark”, a guest post
“We have a new assignment today,” my second grade teacher says as she plunges her hands into a giant cardboard box on her desk. I’m practically falling out of my seat to see what she will pull out. “I want you all to take out your notebooks and think of a story you’d like to tell.” She heaves a dozen little hardback books out of the box. The covers are blank white, the spines thin. She sets another stack next to the first one and then discards the empty box.
For the next ten minutes she continues with instructions—you need a main character, a setting, a problem and a solution. A few of the students next to me groan, their heads slumping as they doodle in their practice notebooks instead of writing.
I don’t understand their groans at the new assignment because I can barely sit still with how excited I am. Finally, a piece of schoolwork that somehow feels tailored for me specifically. I love to read. I re-read my favorite stories every night, and now my teacher is asking me to write my very own?
It takes me two days to jot down my characters and problems and setting.
It takes all of us two weeks to practice writing the sentences neatly in our notebooks as well as practice drawing the pictures that will go with the words.
And at the end of the two weeks? My teacher gives me my very own blank hardback book. I crack it open and feel something rise in my chest—a feeling I can’t explain at the age of seven but will figure out later. It’s a big feeling that makes my hands shake as I carefully, delicately place each word, each sentence on those blank pages. It’s a feeling that has me drawing my brows together as I craft the pictures to match my scenes. It’s a feeling that will stay with me as I read the book aloud to an audience of parents and students later that week. And it’s a feeling that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Now, decades later, I have a name for that big feeling.
The creative spark.
Since my second grade teacher gave me that fateful assignment all those years ago, the creative spark has stayed with me, shaping who I am today. Many have—and will likely continue—to try and smother it out of me.
I’ll never forget the day my high school guidance counselor grimaced when I told her my career aspirations of becoming an author. She shook her head, strongly advising me to look into the physical therapy or nursing field because they were actual careers. She went on to say I’d never be able to make a living at being an author and suggested I rethink my plans.
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the response to my dreams—I’d made up my mind that day in second grade what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I told anyone and everyone who asked me from then on out. “I’m going to be an author,” I’d say with confidence, my chin held high. The answer was often met with laughs and nods and we’ll sees.
Luckily for me, my parents never laughed. They never rolled their eyes or groaned when I had a new story for them to read. They told me if I wanted to be an author, then I would be, but I’d have to work hard for it.
They weren’t wrong. Having the creative spark—that urge to write and create and shape worlds and characters into existence—isn’t the only thing I needed on my journey to become an author. It certainly helps—that fire constantly burning inside me, that excitement at the prospect of a blank page, the jolt of awareness and delight when a new character pops into my head and starts whispering their story to me. Sometimes that spark is the only thing that can hold my heart together after a story is rejected or met with a negative review. That spark is the only thing that picks up those aching pieces and firmly demands, “Keep writing. Keep trying. Keep creating.”
Over the years I learned to understand the pure subjective aspects of the business, how one person can love what another hates and vice versa. I’ve learned to appreciate and depend on honest critiques from trusted peers and professionals. I’ve learned to stay humble and to never stop working on my craft, to never settle with what I know now and always strive to learn more. I’ve learned that sometimes a manuscript needs to sit for years before it is ready for the world.
But one thing that has never changed, one thing that has never let me down, is that same creative spark instilled within me in second grade. That same big feeling I often was laughed at for growing up. I never stopped feeding that spark, never stopped listening to its encouragement, never stopped working toward the dream that took hold of me and never let go.
Now, all these years later, as I wake up each morning to work on a manuscript, I still feel as excited as that seven-year-old girl. Eager and beaming at the chance to dive into new worlds with the simplicity of jotting down an idea in a notebook or striking a few letters on the keyboard. I’m beyond lucky I get to live my dream, beyond lucky I have amazing readers who are just as excited to read as I am to write. And I owe it all to that big feeling that has never left my side, never let the negativity or the difficulty smother it, that beautiful, universal, joyous thing I call the creative spark.
About Ember of Night:
I am a weed.
Unloved by my abusive, alcoholic dad. Unwanted by my classmates. Unnoticed by everyone else.
But I’d suffer anything to give my kid sister a better life—the minute I turn eighteen, I’m getting us the hell out of here. And some hot stranger telling me I am the key to stopping a war between Heaven and Hell isn’t going to change that.
Let the world crumble and burn, for all I care.
Draven is relentless, though. And very much a liar. Every time his sexy lips are moving, I can see it—in the dip of his head, the grit of his jaw—even if my heart begs me to ignore the signs.
So what does he want?
I need to figure it out fast, because now everyone is gunning for me. And damn if I don’t want to show them what happens when you let weeds thrive in the cracks of the pavement…
We can grow powerful enough to shatter the whole foundation.
May 4th 2021 by Entangled: Teen (ISBN13: 9781649370310)
About Molly E. Lee:
Molly E. Lee is an author best known for her romance novels, the Grad Night series and the Love on the Edge series. Molly writes Adult and Young Adult contemporary featuring strong female heroines who are unafraid to challenge their male counterparts, yet still vulnerable enough to have love sneak up on them. In addition to being a military spouse and mother of two + one stubborn English Bulldog, Molly loves watching storms from her back porch at her Midwest home, and digging for treasures in antique stores.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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