My name is Amanda Gatton. In my home town of Washington Court House, Ohio, people who've known me for a long time also call me Dawn. I was born in Columbus, Ohio and lived there until I was eleven. That's when my family relocated to Washington CH, which was, at that time, a very small south/central Ohio town. It has grown substantially since I moved here all those years ago, and I wouldn't really consider it a "small town" anymore.
I was always deeply involved with creative writing and art. Though my college degrees are not writing focused, I did take classes throughout and continue to enroll in various writing and art classes to this day! I am a firm believer that an individual can never learn too much, and to learn gives me great joy. Sharing what I've learned gives me joy as well!
I am married to a talented musician and we have two children. I started writing professionally in 2011 both as a freelance content writer and as a novelist. To date, I have published a total of 29 titles on Amazon. Under my real name, Amanda Gatton, I publish children's picture books, and material for children and teens. However, I have also published novels and novellas under the pen name, M Jet which are mostly thrillers and romance appropriate for 18+ audiences. I also illustrate my books, and recently published a title which I co-wrote with my little girl! You can find Carmen's Cat Book here.
These days, I am a public school substitute teacher for the Washington City School District. I feel comfortable with the novelist turned teacher phase, and it's a natural step for me. I haven't published a title aside from the book I did with my daughter in quite some time! I have about fourteen finished manuscripts floating around my office that are unpublished. Right now I am just very focused on teaching and less on marketing and publishing. Maybe my stories will be told again, and hopefully you will be with me when they are! The FAQ section here on my website will tell you more about me than you could ever possibly want to know, and you can check it out here.
How to Get Inspired
Now let's talk inspiration. Whether you are a fledgling writer or an experienced author, you have or will likely ask yourself, where do I find ideas?
Inspiration is something that works differently for everybody. Today I'd like to share with you the three tips that work best for me.
1. Be a Police Officer
Waaaaait a minute... We're talking about being writers here, not police officers. What the heck is this lady talking about?
I have known a few law enforcement officers in my time, and I have also extensively researched the field of law enforcement while plotting various stories. What I have learned is that cops are trained, and must also teach themselves, to be hyper aware of their surroundings at all times. A good cop knows everything about what is going on around him or her. He knows what his environment looks like, who is there, what they look like, and what they are doing... All the time. He may not look like he's paying attention to everything around him; but he is. Even when he's off duty.
Teaching myself those hyper-observation skills has been the number one way I have been an inspiration magnet. A cop does it for safety, and so that he or she can properly anticipate problems and handle situations before they become disasters. A writer does it because inspiration is everywhere if you are paying attention.
I'll give you an example. My kids and I like to stroll around our neighborhood. I am a person who absorbs everything. I am particularly attracted to and fascinated with settings. There is a block on our street of houses that all basically look alike and they all have metal lamp poles in the front yard. All of the poles are those traditional black wrought iron with a little window box for the light. But there is one house where the pole is different. The house is the same, the yard is the same, but the pole... The pole is white, with ornate decorative spirals, and a glittery pointy white roof over the light. Everything else around it is normal, BUT THAT POLE DEFINITELY BELONGS TO FAIRIES! Do you catch my drift? The smallest little detail can inspire a whole wild imagining. My mind has an entire story plotted out about the "supposed" people who live there, who are actually magical creatures only posing as humans.
The inspiration for my first novel came from one sentence. I was seeing a counselor after the birth of my second child because I was struggling with postpartum depression. He said, "Are you sure Mary was real?" to me. I'm going to let your imagination wander on that little revelation, but my point is: that one remark he made spawned a novel. And then a second, and then a third. The series was later titled "The Nursery Rhyme Chronicles," and it has since sold copies all around the world.
Big inspiration can come from the smallest things. Be a cop. Pay attention.
2. Do What You Love
You're probably rolling your eyes here a little bit, and thinking, uuuum, I love writing. I'm going to do that...
But, that's not exactly what I mean. Some people are really good at sitting down at the keyboard (or in my case, notebook, because I always hand write first) and just knocking out words whether they feel like it or not. In fact, if you read a lot of writing articles or books, you will be RELENTLESSLY told to write whether you "feel like it," or not.
I have found however, that forcing writing sucks. It can even become troubling for your mental health if you are constantly holding your creativity to a deadline, or requiring a paycheck from your muse. In Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic," she talks about how inspiration can sometimes run away if you are going to try and force it to pay your bills. In my case, I have definitely found this to be true.
I wrote religiously for several years while I ran an in home daycare. I built my writing business to the point where I was making enough money to quit daycare and devote myself full time to writing when my youngest started kindergarten. I longed for the day I would have all day to write and work on marketing and administrative things for my business!
And the day she started kindergarten was THE DAY that my muse told me to go to hell. That's a bit blunt, but that is one hundred percent how it happened. There was no gradual decline, or occasional struggle. One day I was capable of putting out ten thousand words in a day; the next day I was lucky to piece together a one line Facebook post.
It was devastating.
A couple years went by and I built an art business. Writing became a thing of the past. My book sales dwindled and became non existent, because I no longer published new releases to drive sales. It became such a remote thing to me that I thought I would never go back to it again. That was an ever present sadness in my life but I felt it was beyond my control.
Then, I became a teacher. Just like that, the light switched back on, and the words were pouring out again. I discovered the key for me is working with children. When I was successful before, I ran a daycare. Now, my inspiration has returned because I am around children again all the time! I love working with kids, I love their energy, and that was the thing that I was missing.
Saving some of your focus for the other things that you love is paramount for maintaining a healthy muse. I believe that it primes your brain to accept inspiration and ideas when you have some other pursuit that is meaningful to you. For me, its being around kid energy. For you it might be motorcycling, or singing in a band, or gardening.
If you want to get inspired and stay that way, don't ever quit tending your garden just to write your book.
3. Writer's Notebook
The last inspiration tool I want to talk to you about today that is helpful to me is the writer's notebook. You can find a ton of cool writing notebook pins on my "Writing Tips" board on Pinterest. I will also cover how to create your own writer's notebook in my creative writing class. So I won't say much about it here today, except to tell you... If you want to get inspired, MAKE A WRITER'S NOTEBOOK!
This is a small book, one that will fit in your purse or glove box. This is a place where you will jot down all the little inspirations. Like the fairy people light pole. Or the one thing your therapist said. You might even snap a photo of the fairy light pole and stick it in your book. This is where you take note of all those little things about life that are mysterious or appealing.
There is one thing that I don't write down in my writer's notebook anymore. I don't write story ideas down. I took James Patterson's Writing Masterclass (another cool class for you to take!!!) In that class, Patterson states that you should never write down a book idea. If it's a good idea, you'll remember it. If it's not good enough for you to remember, it certainly isn't good enough for your readers. That remark really resonated with me, and I have not written down a single book idea since!
That's all from me for now, but I'd love for you to join in the Facebook Event for my writing class where I will be sharing some writing snippets and other info! The actual class will be live in person, and will start January 2019, but anyone can join on Facebook, even if you're too far away to come in person! For more details on taking the class, click here. To join in the Facebook Event, click here.
I'll see you in class!