I am deep in Revison Land. It’s a lot like those Tilt-a-Whirl rides that make you lose all concept with reality. Or all control of your lunch…
Actually, it’s a LOT like this poor guy, and all I wan to do is beg Janice to make it STOP.
Actually, that’s not true. I hit a few breakthroughs last week that inspired me to keep going. Those breakthroughs inspired me to not screech curses at Janice or the Tilt-a-Whirl attendant and demand they get me off this demented purveyor of hell…
But, I’m gonna be really honest with you guys: in the last 2 years–since I sold my book–most days have left me feeling like this poor girl.
All the other authors can “make a letter V”. So why am I the only one who finds it tricky? More than tricky–tortuous. Impossible.
Except…most writers feel this way. I am not the only who can’t make a letter V. Because the simple fact of the matter is that writing is hard.
All creative endeavors are. You never know when your Muse will cooperate, and most days, she is really lazy and ought to be fired. I show up every freakin’ day at my computer, and she comes maybe…two days a week. For an hour each time. Then she’s back out, partying, inspiring other artists, and pretending I don’t exist.
And yes, I totally yoinked that analogy from Elizabeth Gilbert, who I show in a video below. Thing is, it’s TRUE. There is without a doubt something very mystical and inexplicable about the creative process. You can BICHOK all you want, but if you’re not BICHOKing with the Right Idea, then you’re work won’t be quality…And worse, you won’t enjoy what you’re doing.
There’s a quote from Neil Gaiman’s amazing commencement speech:
I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work.
This used to bother me because I thought that it could make people lazy–encourage them to only work when they felt “inspired”.
But then I realized I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
Neil Gaiman got his best advice from Stephen King–“You should enjoy it.” But Gaiman didn’t enjoy it. He worried and stressed and forgot what it felt like to love creating.
Yet that love for creation–that incredible explosion of ideas and passion–is something we all feel when we first start. It’s what made us become artists in the first place…yet it’s so easy to lose.
It’s so easy to forget what Good Ideas feel like. You stop working in sync with your Muse, and you hammer out words that end up lackluster. Words that aren’t fun to get out.
And that there IS a difference between inspired writing and…all the rest of what you write. Readers can sense it, and you can certainly sense it. Either you enjoy what you’re doing…or you don’t.
And there IS a Muse. There IS a flighty coworker who comes into work a few hours a week and showers you with brilliance. And all the sentences she helps you with have this extra spark–a glimmer of fairy dust–that all the other sentences lack.
And WOW, guys. When your Muse cooperates, it’s like being on fire. It’s like the best food and the warmest cuddle and the fastest roller coaster all rolled into one.
It’s not a Tilt-a-Whirl–it’s a freaking free fall and you have wings.
You feel this wrenching in your gut and the ideas explode from your mind faster than your fingers can fly over the keyboard.
Neil Gaiman has another quote that sums it up perfectly:
The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising (“but of course that’s why he was doing that, and that means that…”) and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.
My author friends (a.k.a. the only reason I am still sane) and I frequently talk about this SURGE of story. Sometimes it happens before you start writing a new story. Sometimes it’ll hit halfway through a draft…or while you’re revising.
Sadly, it is almost impossible to call up on demand. There are only two solutions I know of for getting the Muse to drop by–and I talked about them in my Writing Constipation post.
- Show up. Write every day. Keep on typing despite your lack of enthusiasm until ye olde Muse returns.
- Step away from your story/creative endeavor for a while and let the ideas simmer. Think, think, think and think some more until your Muse finally gets intrigued enough by all your idea-churning to come barreling back.
Solution #1 is usually what I do. I write every day…and wind up with dreadful first drafts. Dreadful second, fifth, twelfth drafts. But each new drafts tends circle closer and closer to the Right Story until eventually my Muse shows up and gets me on the right track.
But I think people forget about solution #2. I know too many writers who get into a routine. Who copy/paste the same things they wrote before, just package it a bit different. They’re bored; they aren’t having fun; they’re worried they might lose their success at any moment; and their writing becomes flatter and flatter, worse and worse.
They’ve forgotten that a Right Story ever existed. They know the mechanics, and they use the mechanics to produce…but they don’t feel that full-body click that tells them the Right Story has just come into being. They don’t even remember they were ever supposed to feel it.
So, just as Stephen King said to Neil Gaiman, I am going to say it to you. It’s the same thing I’ve had to learn over the last 2 years–and that I only recently started to really understand.
You should enjoy this.
And whenever it starts to feel wrong–to feel forced–then it’s time for you to stop. Don’t be lazy, but don’t let your Muse be lazy either. She will come out eventually, and the more you learn to call on her, the easier it becomes every time.
So, I’ll leave you with Neil Gaiman’s brilliant speech and Elizabeth Gilbert’s amazing lecture. Maybe their words will resonate with you as much as they did with me. And maybe they can help you stop the crazy Tilt-a-Whirl and instead grow wings.