Finding the Inspiration and Courage that leads to Multiple Genre Success
This is a transcript of the Writing Gym Podcast. To listen to the full episode, click here.
Today’s Writing Gym Podcast guest is Cristina Istrati. She writes in multiple genres–which is pretty amazing–and we asked her to share her writing process and inspiration with us.
Many writers have dreams of getting published. In Cristina’s case her dream came from a literal dream!
“I’d like to think it’s a bit unusual,” Cristina started, “How I started writing was actually through a dream that I had back in August 2007. I just dreamt myself writing books and that was it. The next day, I just grabbed a pen and some sheets and just started writing and the result of that was my first novel. I published it in 2009. This is how I started and like I said, I am working on my third novel in my series and I am so excited about it.”
It’s really a magical thing–to follow that impulse, that dream. And look where Cristina is now. She’s a published and award-winning writer. How did winning an award immediately after her debut novel impact her writing life?
“I never expected it but I was very happy. The first thing is that it keeps you confident and it also stimulates you to keep going, to keep working on your stories, and to keep writing. Because at the end of the day this is what it is all about. Winning an award was a stimulation for me. I didn’t let it change me or anything a little bit close to arrogant or anything close to that, no, I kept working on my novels and I didn’t allow it to let it influence me in any negative way.”
I then asked Cristina about feedback. One of the things that I talk about a lot is the difference between the creative process and the revision process. They’re two very different functions. When we’re in the creative process, it’s really important not to let that feedback in or for that feedback to only be positive feedback.
“When I was writing the first novel I didn’t get any feedback. I was so into writing; I was absorbed by the story and the characters and what I was doing there that it didn’t even cross my mind to actually ask a friend to read through it. I just went for it, wrote the book, and published it at the end. That was it.
You never know–maybe somebody would’ve told me they didn’t like the story or it’s boring, or something like that and that might have discouraged me a bit. So, I’m happy that I didn’t ask for feedback from anybody. I just did it on my own.”
This is a really valuable tip for writers–like Cristina, writers must know when it’s time to let that feedback in or when it’s time to just really be in that creative zone.
But what about after winning her award–did it change her writing process?
“I had some fellow writers read my second novel but, somehow, I didn’t like their feedback. I didn’t take it personally because feedback is not about that. You just listen to what the other person is saying and if something resonates with you then you take it. That’s pretty much it. A writer should never take it personally. It’s not about the writer; it’s about the work itself. Feedback should only be looked at as pure feedback.
“What I didn’t like about their feedback was that they were too general. It was like they were talking about a different novel. I realized I just needed to follow my own intuition and to not give anyone the manuscript anymore, before it gets published. I wanted to follow my own gut feeling–both in writing and when it comes to feedback as well.”
Cristina’s talk about intuition resonated the most with me. Many writers get so wrapped up in what they’re writing and many get into this self-doubt, always asking themselves: “Is this right? I don’t know.” It makes such a difference when they start to believe in themselves and their writing. When writers get feedback, they mustn’t take it personally–much like what Cristina shared.
As writers, we must be confident about the message we are putting out into the world. I know what is right for my book and I know that’s what I’m doing. How did Cristina develop her strong sense of writing intuition?
“This may sound arrogant–and I totally understand if that’s the way it comes across–but when I see what I am writing, when I see the product of my work, I just feel confident about it and I don’t know where this confidence comes from. When there is something so, so strong and so,so beautiful about the story, it cannot be something random. That keeps me confident.”
“A writer’s story and characters are one. The minute the writer enters their room and starts writing, they become one with the novel and with everything else that is inside the novel. It’s like a universe. When you create something so strong and you feel like it is a part of you, and a part of your soul and heart, how can you not be confident and know? It’s twisting, I cannot understand this but this is what I feel.”
Definitely a unique perspective but one that I appreciate very much. There’s a different type of confidence that comes from the power of our piece–different from when we win awards and other things. Where we are writing has its own life, its own energy, and its own confidence. If writers are really listening to their piece and have faith in their piece, then there is a different kind of confidence that can overcome their impostor syndrome.
“I think one of the reasons why writers aren’t so confident in themselves is because the media created many limiting concepts about the writing industry and one of of them is that you can’t make a living as a writer,” Cristina shared, “From my point of view, as long as the writers is 1000% committed, there is nothing they cannot achieve in terms of the writing career. There is no limit to what a writer can achieve as long as they are themselves, their journey, and their writing.”
Resonating and true is something that I also believe in. At the Writing Gym, we have created a group of wonderful writers who are committed to their craft, who get feedback from published and award-winning authors like Cristina. I asked Cristina if a program like this had been available when she was just starting out, would it have been something she was interested in doing?
“Any help is more than welcome–especially at the beginning. At the beginning every writer should get as much help as possible. That’s a bit of a critical point when the writer just starts out, the confidence is not so big. But if the passion–a really burning passion, the kind that wakes you up at night and compels you to write–is there then that is enough. If this confidence is not there, my advice for writers is to follow the passion, to make their passion a substitute for the confidence. As they hold on to that passion they have for writing, the confidence will make its way, too.”
Some people are born writers in the same way that some are born musicians or basketball players. But the rest of us humans on Earth, we have to work at the process over time, unless we are a true prodigy–and that’s okay. It’s part of the process to learn and to get quality feedback and to learn the skills that we need.
Yet, even those naturally born writers, musicians, athletes all have to show up and do the work too. It goes for any kind of gift that people have.
As I mentioned before, Cristina writes in multiple genres. “It was very interesting for me to see that I could actually switch from romance to children’s stories and then I wrote mystery stories. I think it is a good thing for a writer to play with genres if they have the ability to, because then they wouldn’t be caged into one particular genre. I highly recommend that other writers try to write in other genres. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a masterpiece, it’s an exercise to see what will work and it’s helped me polish my writing skills and gave me that extra confidence.
“Another great benefit is that it nourishes your imagination. For me, at least, I get bored writing in one genre. I want more excitement, adventure, and switching from one genre to another really keeps things exciting for me.”
Cristina shared another amazing takeaway–the energy of the writer comes through the book and becomes absorbed by the reader. “The writer needs to be at his best. When he is writing, he needs to be bubbling with creative energy. That will be felt in his things.”
Lastly, I asked Cristina if she had one piece of advice for writers just starting out writing and struggling with it.
“Firstly, identify what you love to write about. It’s important to play with genres a bit in the beginning and see which one first you best. Without that certainty, you cannot write. And from here comes the lack of confidence. Figure out what genre first for you like a glove and just off and follow that. The more you write, the more you want to write and the more the passion will grow. This will give you confidence and you’ll want to keep doing that.”
Well, there you go–the lovely advice for aspiring authors. Just identify what you love to write about and follow your intuition. Take the time to play with genres, figure it out, find your niche, and your calling, and all doubts will fade away.
Until next time. Happy writing.
This is a transcript of the Writing Gym Podcast. To listen to the full episode, click here