My Muse Hates Free Time

Does anyone else get their ideas when it’s most inconvenient?

I think I am at my most creative during the height of the school semester where everything is due and my entire future hangs in the balance..

I’ll be mentally calculating how much time I should commit to studying and she’ll show up, donut in hand, asking “hey, what would it be like if the human race was forced to live under the sea?”

“Now is not a good time,” I’ll say, reading about Metella and how she likes to sit in the atrium.

“What if they were down there for so long that they forgot what life on land was like?”

I’ll pause. “That sounds kind of cool.”

“Yeah. You should totally spend the next five hours thinking about it.”

“I have a test tomorrow in a foreign language.”

“If you don’t write down everything now you will forget about it and you’ll never be published. You will spend the rest of your life working a 9-5 grind. Your soul will become drier and drier until you are simply a husk of inadequacy.”

“Crap. You’re right.”

When I actually have some downtime, however, my muse can’t be bothered. She’ll be out partying with her other muse friends, only to turn up around 12 a.m. to tell me about how she worked out a way to fill that plothole in my last project. Which, of course, I’ll be too tired to do anything about.

Writers aren’t supposed to wait for their muses to show up. They’re meant to start writing and slowly their muses will materialize.

But it’s so much more difficult writing without her. She makes it more exciting. Sure, she doesn’t always have the best ideas, but at least she makes it fun.

The Short Guide to World-Building for Noobs

For some people creating new worlds is easy. For others it’s a bit more difficult. Here are a few things I’ve learned from experience:

Write more information about this world than you will use in the story. 

Get out a notebook and write down as much about this world as you can: the landscapes, the history, the language, the climate, the people, everything you can think of. However, keep in mind that most of what you are creating will not make it into the finished product. People don’t like being bogged down by too much information. Nonetheless, it’s important that you have this background information so that it feels more organic. You don’t want the reader to feel as if you’re making it up as you go along.

Remember where you live affects who you are as a person. 

Regardless of how you may dislike where you live or the customs you grew up with, it’s undeniable that where you are born affects your view of the world. The same should be said of your characters. For instance, people who live in less forgiving climates tend to be tougher than people that don’t. Think about your character and how their environment shaped their personality. Did it embolden them? Make them fearful? What side of the mountain they came from can make a difference in their development.

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Travel. 

Exploring new lands, tasting new food, and mingling with strangers is the best way to get your creative energies flowing. This is especially true when it comes to world-building. Traveling can broaden your horizons and inspire you to create new worlds that may nor may not resemble this one. You can look up photographs on the internet about certain landmarks, but it’s no substitute for being there yourself.

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Read about other cultures. 

This doesn’t mean you should directly or disrespectfully rip off of other cultures and their beliefs. However, exposure to new ideas (or at least ideas that are new to you) can inspire you to create your own. Study different religions and sciences. Read short story collections from other countries. Do as much research as you can about different environments.

Good luck!

Ode to My Lack of Motivation

They say one of the best things about being a writer is that you can do it in your pajamas. I’m inclined to agree (although I very rarely write in my pjs ). But it goes farther than that. One of the greatest things about being a writer is the freedom to express yourself.

However, freedom is a double-edged sword.

If you don’t show up to work with no explanation, you will likely be fired.

If you don’t write for a day, nothing will happen.

Absolutely nothing.

No one is going to phone you and demand to know why your word count is so low. No one is going to call you into their office because you were watching a Youtube video instead of filling in those plot holes you created in the third chapter.

Chances are nobody will care at all.

And that’s one of the reasons why I struggle with writing.

Nothing bad actually happens if I don’t write. I suppose you could consider not finishing a book/blog post/short story bad, but it isn’t really.

When you think about it, there are billions of people on the earth. Not that many of them write books before they kick it. Would the universe really think less of you if you were just another Joe Shmoe that didn’t write a novel? Probably not.

And because nobody else does, it is up to you to do all the caring. And caring is very difficult. Particularly when you’re the only one doing it.

A Writer’s Dilemma: The Problem With Conflict

It’s pretty obvious that one of the central components to a story is the conflict.

It doesn’t matter what the conflict is: fighting the Dark Lord, winning the beef cake, or keeping the world from losing its Twinkies.

There just has to be a problem for the protagonist to solve.

I am good at coming up with conflict.

My characters suffer horribly at my hands.

The problem with getting your characters into terrible situations, however, is that, eventually, you have to get them out.

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Sure, it’s easy to say the character needs to overthrow a corrupt government and ward off an alien incursion, but how would they go about doing that? Where would they even begin? Especially when these people have no military training or exemplary fighting skills?

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I expect them to have a clue what to do when even I wouldn’t know how to act in these situations.

There they are, strapped to a chair with a bomb that’s set to go off at any moment. They rock their chair from side to side desperately before turning to me in a last-ditch effort to save themselves.

“Writer!” they scream, “what do I do?!”

Me:

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Eh, I’ll get back to you when the answer comes to me during a 6 a.m. shower. You can wait that long, can’t you?

Them:

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Me:

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On the bright side, maybe if the solution is a surprise to me it’ll be a surprise to the reader as well. Or perhaps I’m just playing one long game of mental hide-and-seek with myself. Only time will tell.

Rewriting: Once More with Feeling!

I experience a mixed bag of emotions when I’m rewriting a piece.

One emotion is excitement because I’m fixing things I had problems with in the original draft. Another is trepidation because I’m worried that the things I actually did enjoy about my original draft will have to be cut out.

Each thing you change in a story has a domino effect. One little paragraph can completely change the tone.

You have to choose what you change very carefully.

There’s also the humiliation of realizing you actually let another human being read this when it doesn’t remotely resemble what you hoped it would be.

I’m going to attempt to do something I’ve never done before.

I am going to literally take it page by page and rework as much as I can in my favor. Every word I don’t like, every clumsy sentence, every image that isn’t just right is going to get the hedge clippers.

Just the thought makes me want to drink an entire bottle of whisky straight out of the bottle, but it seems as though this is the only method that will make this venture worth while.

How else will I justify spending months on this thing?

My Mind Only Lets Me Write at Night

I am a nocturnal writer.

I have been since I was a wee one, scribbling Fairly Oddparents fanfiction inside of a notebook on a long car ride home.

There have been freak instances when I’ve produced quality material during the daytime, but it usually involves having a magic talisman and whispering ancient languages into the wind while standing on a cliff in Ireland.

You wouldn’t understand.

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Anyway, under most circumstances, if I attempt to make sweet literary love to my novels I usually wind up staring mindlessly at my screen. My brain liquifies and I just start thinking about the universe and politics and getting a job and all sorts of horrible things. I feel this sense of guilt like I should be doing something else. Like cleaning or cooking or paying those things…what are they called? Bills? Yeah, those.

However, during the night time it seems like everything just clicks. The guilt is gone, the apprehension is gone, the boredom of being trapped inside my own consciousness where no one can hear me scream is gone. I’m free to explore my mental domain. More importantly, I’m enjoying myself as I do it.

Sometimes I experience the same feeling when it is overcast and rainy outside.

What is this phenomenon? I wish I could say.

Does anyone else experience this issue, or is it just me?

When do you all write the best quality material?

How to Become the Best Writer Ever in the History of the Universe!

Hello, reader. I am a writer person like you. Definitely not someone strapped to a chair against their will.

Do you want to learn how to write like a super-awesome writer guy?

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Becoming one of the giants of literature is easy with these simple steps.

Step One: 

Take something you’ve written. Just anything. It could be a poem, a play, a short story, just whatever. You got it? Okay, now set it on fire. Now take a picture of your literally flaming passion and upload it to Instagram. This is guaranteed to catch people’s attention.

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Step Two: 

Take your college degree off the wall and caress it lovingly. Are you caressing it? Good. Now weep. Go ahead, I’ll wait. That’s it. Let it all out. Let the debt and unemployment flow through you like a river. It’s okay. Your parents were never proud of you to begin with.

Step Three:

Keep a physical diary of all your failures. If you have been failing that means you’ve been trying. And, boy, have you been trying a lot. It’s alright if your tears smudge the ink. This is just your own personal record. No one else will read this. Just like no one else will read those books you self-published or blog entries you posted on WordPress.

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Step Four: 

Drink heavily while you write. This will inspire you to write more and will totally not convince you to phone your ex-lover. All the best writers drank. And they all lived happy, productive lives. Well, aside from the ones that committed suicide or died under suspicious circumstances. But that’s beside the point.

Step Five: 

Tweet every single thought that passes through your mind. Don’t even think about it. Just Tweet it. There is no way this could possibly go wrong. Tweet your politics. Tweet your religion. Tweet about people you don’t know but have heard through third-party sources that they did something terrible and so you must condemn them for actions you don’t know they committed for sure. Why? Because certainty is for plebs.

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Step Six: 

Tell everyone you are a writer. EVERYONE!! Hand out business cards at the grocery store. Give one to that chick at McDonalds who looks like the grease fumes have liquified her brain, give it to those Mormons who will show up at your door any second now. Have you done that? Okay, don’t write now. Don’t write a single word. Go to Youtube. Your work is done. Everyone knows your brilliance.

Follow these steps and I promise you that…something will probably happen.

What?

I don’t have all the answers.

Editing My Novella, or the Red Pen of Death

I’ve put it off long enough.

I must edit the third draft of my story.

It’s been a while since I looked at this novella and, to be honest, I’m kind of terrified. Is it going to be better than I remember? Worse than I remember? I have no way of knowing until I reread it.

Will it stay a novella? Will I have to hack away at it until it’s a short story, or pile on it until it’s a full-length novel?

There are so many questions.

Unfortunately, there are no answers. 

Only the Red Pen.

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The Red Pen snorts at your characters’ backstories and your obvious social commentary. 

The Red Pen cares nothing for your need to impress your friends. It scoffs at your attempts at fictionalizing yourself and rewriting your high school years so everyone thinks you’re great and you date that hot guy from your chemistry class. 

There is no hope.

Only copyediting.

Remember that character you were going to develop, but then abandoned? The Red Pen does. That awkward sexual metaphor you made in the third chapter? The Red Pen noticed.

The Red Pen sees.

The Red Pen knows.

Wish me luck…

JK Rowling and the Inability to Let Go of Harry Potter

A fair amount of people are giving JK Rowling grief about constantly making amendments to the Harry Potter series. While I can understand where they are coming from (and heartily disagree that Hermione and Harry should have gotten together), I can’t entirely blame her for not wanting to leave the Wizarding World forever.

I mean, think about it. Really think about it.

If you’d spent years and years mapping out a fictional universe comprised of hundreds of characters with intricate backstories, laws, spells, social norms, and history, would you want to wash your hands of it forever?

Especially when said world has brought you millions of dollars and world renown? I wouldn’t. I would beat that dead horse until its corpse was drilled into the earth’s mantle.

But we know it’s not just the money that is a motivator. She earned pennies for her Cormoran Strike novel when she wrote it under a pen name (well, until it was let slip that she was the genius behind it) and she has given away a substantial amount of her earnings to charity.

I believe the main culprit is she’s simply lived in Harry Potter’s universe so long to leave it would be like forsaking a part of herself.

I can respect that. I think all of us have spent many years of our lives in the Wizarding World and would not want to completely abandon it.

It can be difficult for an author to know when you should give it a rest. It’s like Leonardo da Vinci once said, “art is never finished, only abandoned.”

How do you know when to abandon your baby?

Perhaps there will never be a definite answer.

All I know is that nothing Rowling could add would destroy my view of Harry Potter. He is safely hidden away in my broom closet where no overzealous JK Rowlings or fanfic writers may hurt him.

I have wonderful memories of reading HP books and watching HP movies, and no one can take them away from me.

Just remember, JK may be able to rewrite HP on the page, but she can never rewrite it in our hearts.

Also, Hermione x Ron forever.

Fight the power.

The Dreaded Sunday Slump

Does anyone else have a difficult time writing on Sunday?

For me, it’s one of the most grueling days to get any work done.

Here I am, in a cafe, sitting in front of a laptop with a Pages document open to a story I’ve been writing for God knows how long, and all I can think of is how soft my bed probably is right now.

Is it the anticipation of the week ahead that steals my ability to concentrate? Is it the sum total of all of last week’s burdens that are weighing on my back?

Or am I just a lazy person that will use any excuse not to get any work done?

Does it have to be one or the other?

As far as I’m concerned, Sundays are no good for writing. Or doing anything.

Wait until Monday and I’ll be a solar-powered factory of productivity. A consort battleship of…doing stuff.

Oh, I will plow through as I’m wont to do. However, I shall do so very crankily and with much lethargy. Not to mention writer’s block.