Writer's Survival Guide 4: Fire Your Muse
Last week, to prepare for major revisions, I began reading through the draft I finished in January. Can I say it stunk? It did. It was like rotten garbage with flies and maggots. Okay, maybe not that bad, but at least moldy oranges bad. By the end of chapter three I wanted to set the project aside indefinitely and move on to my next book.
Photo by photosteve 101
Instead of shutting my laptop down and wallowing in self-pity for an afternoon, I forged through and continued reading, all the while leaving comment balloons and remarks to myself with track changes. By the end of the first day, I was discouraged, but I wouldn't allow myself to plunge into "I'm the worst writer ever; this book can't be fixed!" mode.
Every time a negative thought entered, I replaced it with a positive one. Not a false positive. I simply assured myself I would find a way to make the book better.
Writers talk about our muse (which I consider the inspiration for a fabulous idea). Usually we're referring to the writing stage. But we can blame our muse for every level of a project.
Revising is hard? We'll put it aside until we "feel" better about it. The new idea we haven't fleshed out? We'll wait until "inspiration" strikes before we pursue it further. The platform we know we need to get started on? We'll wait until it's easier/we're less busy/a publisher offers us a contract.
Guess what? The muse is a myth. It's a convenient scapegoat to avoid whatever we are too afraid to tackle.
So I say fire your muse.
Yeah. Fire it. You don't need it.
Writing doesn't always bring the warm fuzzies. Revising can be incredibly painful. Platform building? Not for the faint of heart.
The real magic happens, not when we wait for inspiration or when we're in the mood for whatever task we're avoiding, but when we sit down and live in the discomfort.
We move beyond fear. That's where strength is built. That's where writers are made.
After that first painful session of my read-through last week, I picked up the blanket I'm crocheting and, as I added several rows, idea after idea came to me on how to fix the opening chapters.
I quickly jotted them all in my "revision notes" section of my book's OneNote folder.
If you decide to fire your muse, you'll need three tools:
1. Belief in yourself as a writer.
2. Willingness to sit in discomfort.
3. A system to capture your ideas and track your progress.
You must believe you are capable of writing a good book. It doesn't have to be great in the first draft stage or even the fifth draft. Just trust in your ability to make it good.
If you aren't willing to sit in discomfort, it will take a long, long time to finish a project--if it ever gets finished. Writing, revising, submitting--each brings joy and challenges, and you're NOT going to be equally excited and upbeat about every book or every stage of writing. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you finish. You do your best.
Finally, without a system to track your ideas and progress, you'll lose steam, or worse, you'll lose those fabulous ideas that assault you at inconvenient times.
The system I use is OneNote for all of my writing projects. I have a virtual folder for each of my projects. In it are a myriad of tabs for different aspects of the manuscript. It does me no good to jot notes on a random piece of paper only to lose it the next week. I must have all of the information for a book in one spot.
So when you're having a fabulous writing day, rejoice! When you're having a rotten writing day, push through. You don't have to feel good to write well. Fire that muse!
A quick thank you to all of the new followers. My Google Friend Connect hasn't allowed me to e-mail contacts in quite some time so I wanted to thank you here. Your support means so much to me. Thank you!
Does fear ever hold you back? How do you man-handle your muse?
Enjoy your Monday!