When in doubt, make an aesthetic?

In honor of Mood Pitch, which took place a couple weeks ago, I thought I’d talk about making aesthetics as a way to stay inspired while writing. And let’s be honest, I love my mood boards and always need an excuse to litter my socials with them.

Why make aesthetics?

Why do we do this? It’s not “writing”, right? It’s not putting our valuable time and effort into getting more words on paper, right?

Well when you put it like that…

But I have two counter points. 1) I have the attention span of a squirrel and 2) Yes, this still counts are writing.

For me, making mood boards and aesthetics helps ramp up the side of my brain that can see a story coming to life, and knows what it should feel like, but is also struggling to think of a plot. It keeps me inspired and motivated. I even use aesthetics as my desktop background so when I open my computer, I feel an immediate urge to write. It helps me remember why I love a story, even when I’m halfway through and have NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENS NEXT (not that this is happening right now…of course not…).

I am a visual creature. Many of us take inspiration from the art we see in the world and on our screens. I can’t draw, and writing takes time. But aesthetics and mood boards feel like a short cut to seeing the world in my head become a reality. So when in doubt, I make another.

Making a Mood Board

Everyone has their own preference for generating mood boards, but my favorites are Pinterest, PowerPoint, and Canva.

Pinterest is by far the easiest route to “no thoughts, just vibes”. I see pictures that I think fit my story, and I pin them. Simple as that. If I’m feeling a bit more motivated, sometimes I’ll separate my pins into sections by character or location, the way I did with my Witch on Fire board.

PowerPoint is also really approachable for making aesthetics. You can manually adjust the slide design to fit the dimensions you want and just slide things around until you’re content. I like to do those aesthetics as a grid because it’s fairly easy and looks nice. For example, here’s a grid I created for Water in the Blood.

Finally, let’s talk Canva. You can sign up for free, but you do get extra access to more templates and pictures if you pay for Premium. As of now, I’ve been perfectly content with the free version. I love the templates they have for collages and mood boards, and they make it very easy to play with the style and color. You could also just start from scratch and make your own arrangement! Here’s a Mood Board I made with a Canva template for Witch on Fire:

Finding art

Now comes the fun part. Finding art. Pinterest makes this easy for you. I see a thing, I pin a thing. However, Pinterest art is often uncredited. Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out where it even came from. But there are some great sources of free-to-use art out there, including the Canva photo library. On top of that, also check out Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash.

Why you should consider commissioning character art

I’ll be the first to admit that I was hesitant to commission character art. After all, when you write a book, you never know if you will be its only reader or not. But I’m learning to get better at celebrating each milestone along the way. Like…I WROTE A BOOK. That in and of itself is worth celebrating. And I've recently learned that nothing feels quite like celebrating that accomplishment by commissioning art.

Recently, I commissioned character art from Ksenia Kholom’yeva, and I could not be happier with what they created. Seeing Deirdre and Cyrus come to life in an image made this story feel so much more real! So if you’re considering character art, but don’t know if you should commission it before you publish something, allow me to encourage you to celebrate your writing.

And with that, I think all these visuals have put me in the mood to get some more words on paper! Happy aesthetic making!