I’m sometimes asked by fellow aspiring-to-be-published novelists how I can write so prolifically. I make it a point to write something every day. Sometimes it’s work on my novel, sometimes it’s a well-crafted and pointed business letter or a scorching missive to my state representative, and sometimes it’s just the blog. My friends question where I get my ideas at all and once I’ve corralled them into one general area, how can I possibly get them heading into the same direction. Do I have a Muse?
The answer is short and sweet: There is NO such thing as a Muse.
Getting anything accomplished, including the task of writing, takes blood, sweat, tears, more sweat and more tears. If you’re the type who is waiting for inspiration from some diaphanous illumination that will lead you by the hand into your creative heart, you’ve got another thing coming. You're also the type who believes you'll hit the MegaMillions jackpot someday.
In my earlier incarnation, I used to believe in the power of the Muse. It’s true that I’m my most creative when my life is full of conflict and drama. I wrote my best poetry when in the throes of freshly minted love affairs, the last being about 25 years ago just after I met my husband. The day-dreamy existence is a fine one for word crafting of any type.
However, the altered state doesn’t work for everything. Serious writers have to adhere to a schedule. I know this because I waffle in that netherworld between writing for fun and the alternative. It’s a great hobby to bandy about words and be the cause of conversations – it’s the birth of your baby. The re-writes, corrections and critiques are infinitely more difficult but part of the total equation – that is called whipping your child into shape.
I am an admittedly lazy writer. There are the rare times when I prolifically write as though I’m on fire, but truthfully speaking, I can initiate more ways of procrastination than anyone I know.
In order to get anything done, I had to kick the idea of my Muse to the curb and join the ranks of the real, working world.
Here are a few tips from a person still struggling with time management issues:
1. Set up a daily time for writing. For novel writing, I need at least two hours of quiet time, and the best time for me is between 2 and 5 p.m. Early in the morning doesn’t work for me; neither do late nights.
2. Set up a daily minimum word amount. It can be as little as 12 sentences a day. For others, it can be a word total. (Mine is usually 1,000 words or more.)
3. Surround yourself with other writers. If you can’t find a local writing group, there are plenty online. Only with reassurance from others in your same situation will you be able to overcome any hurdles or bad habits.
4. Even if you don’t feel like writing, JUST WRITE. It doesn’t have to be polished or worthy of the Pulitzer. Jot down your most mundane thoughts while standing in line at the grocery store. My new thing is to write down catchy names or phrases in my notebook so I don’t forget them later.
5. Tell yourself you can, and you will. Mindsets can be changed, but only you can change your own.
Finally, remember that writing is hard work, not unlike digging up your yard (by hand) to replace it with a vegetable garden. Bushels of tomatoes do not appear by magic. Don’t rely on something as fleeting as a Muse to get it done. It may seem daunting, but writing well is an attainable goal.