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“If you could give an aspiring writer one tip …”

Who are the people who encouraged you? How could you pass along the encouragement to someone else?

Last week a young man named Steve asked if he could interview me for a project in his college honors English class. Though I'm eyeball-deep in a deadline, I said yes with no regrets. Even if you're not a writer, may you find some inspiration in Steve's questions and my off-the-cuff answers.

As an aspiring writer, was there anyone or anything specific that helped you develop and hone your writing skills?

I credit my seventh-grade reading teacher, Mr. Irons, for letting us do book reports for extra credit. Not being the world's best test-taker, I needed something to boost my grades. So I would turn in book reports, and he would show pleasant surprise at the quality of my writing. Of course, I would love to read what the twelve-year-old me was writing back then! But it was the first time I recall an authority figure giving me validation and encouragement for my writing. So between the words of praise and my own enjoyment of putting thoughts on paper, a calling was born.

What inspires you to write? Does it happen through mundane occurrences or do you go somewhere specific to achieve inspiration?

I can't not write. And I think that says something about the nature of a calling: What is it you can't not do? What is it that makes you feel most alive and contributing good to the world? Often I write to figure out what I'm thinking. I write because it's cheaper than therapy. It is almost as much a part of me as breathing.

To a writer, there are few if any mundane circumstances. As an example, one summer before my sophomore year in college, I worked ever-so-briefly on a peach farm. One morning after a hard rain, one of the farmers said (and I quote), "It was pouring its a** out last night." I could have stayed up all night and not come up with that line! So I like capturing snippets of dialogue from daily life. Another line that has always stayed with me, also heard while working a temp job (a co-worker was describing his visit to the county fair): "We saw one pig damn near the size of a Volkswagen!" :-)

You once said, “No matter which art form you call your own, enjoy it. Invest in it. But make your finest piece of art your own life”. How has writing been beneficial in allowing you to do that?

Writing is one way I get to contribute to the world. As you know, I've written a couple of books and I'm working on a third. I also write a free weekly post called Monday-Morning Pep Talk, which anyone can subscribe to by inputting their email address at UltimateReminders.com.

Underneath much of my writing is a theme of encouragement and inspiration. That sounds so "Hallmark" and I don't mean it that way. My father once told me, after I had done something he was proud of, "I'd kick a dragon's a** for you!" That gives you a glimpse of my brand of encouragement. The career counselor in me wants to see everyone respected, appreciated, valued, and included—and putting their gifts to their highest use. In short, I want to see everyone fulfilled. I think we were created for fulfillment. Writing allows me to encourage others to discover and employ their gifts—and just live life more fulfilled.

If you could have interviewed one author from any time period, who would it be and why?

The first person who comes to mind is C.S. Lewis. My goodness, what a prolific author. I would love to know his writing routine (if he had one), and how he went about writing and revising his books. I am also curious to know how much he read and where else he drew his inspiration. As we all know, every good writer is also an avid reader.

What is one habit or routine that helps you create a productive writing atmosphere?

Good question. Lately, I've been devoting more time to clearing my desk each day. Writing is messy and creative, as it should be. But as someone else pointed out, you can't make big (creative) messes if you're already in a mess. So I like to have a certain amount of order before I dig in: projects in folders, only one folder out at a time, and everything else cleared away and dealt with. That's the ideal scenario. But I've learned to write in any and all circumstances, even when my desk is messier than I would like—as it is right now.

Since writing your first book, how has your writing evolved?

Funny you should ask. Just yesterday, as I was poring over the manuscript that's due next Monday to the proofreader, a whole different book started coming into focus. Rather than keeping this book in the style of the previous two (numbered reminders—some as short as a few words, some with lengthy narratives), I started seeing instead a book of longer, standalone reflections. Still smart-alecky at times (as in, "If you make your own deodorant, don't tell anyone"). But also deeper and more fleshed out. The more I explored this new direction—on paper and with my publicist—the more compelling this vision became. And now I can't not do it, even if it does add greatly to my workload for the next six days.

The experience reminded me not to box myself in to a certain style of writing, and to let my writing speak for itself. Years ago, a student I met with recommended a book called Let Your Life Speak. Sometimes we have to let our writing speak. I am excited about this new direction—also a tad overwhelmed at reshaping this entire manuscript by Monday of next week! That's when it's due to the editor/proofreader.

If you could give an aspiring writer one tip, what would it be?

Write to your heart's content, and never stop writing. Do not let anyone steal your dreams or enthusiasm, let alone your love for writing. Some will try. You must let them go and move forward. Some will write far better than you—or be more commercially successful.

But the good writers who are also good people will always encourage and celebrate your writing. Again, if they don't, you have to let them go. Your writing and your love for writing are gifts from the God who made you, who desires your happiness more than you ever could. So write to bring more truth and love into the world; more beauty and goodness. Write as a celebration, not for validation. No one but God can give you that validation. And He already has.

Don't let anyone steal your dreams or enthusiasm. They will try but let them go and move forward.

Gina DeLapa

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Gina DeLapa is America's Ultimate Reminders® Coach and the creator of the Ultimate Reminders® book series. Her wise and witty reminders ("If you don't like someone, don't go camping with them" and "Never cook bacon in the nude") will make you laugh, stir your soul, and inspire your best. If you're not already getting her free Monday-Morning Pep Talk, be sure to sign up now at UltimateReminders.com.