Tag Archives: inspiration

Job #1 For Creative Writers

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As an author, you may feel as if you have many things you must accomplish when you sit down and write a story. But with all things, we need priorities. There is one thing all Creative Writers must do before they try to do anything else. First and foremost, tell a story. If you are a Creative Writer, you are a story teller first and foremost. This goes for novels and short stories alike. This seems as if it is so obvious it shouldn’t need to be said. But guess what? It does.

Some people get it in their head that their story needs to be about something. And while things like theme could add to a story, it is never more important than the story. I hate it when someone asks a writer what their story is about, and they go to discuss the themes and principles they are trying to get across. No! when someone asks you what your story is about, tell them what it’s about, not what it’s about. I hope that’s clear.

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I’m Lagging Behind On My NaNoWriMo Project!

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I’ve been a part of the National Novel Writing Month since 2011, and I’ve won every time. In case you don’t know, the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of the first draft of a novel in 30 days. I usually crush it, done often by Thanksgiving. But I am so woefully behind. I might not make it this year (I will make it, don’t worry). Maybe you’re a bit behind, too. And if you aren’t now, you will be. Here’s my advice for myself, and I hope it helps you, as well.

No Stress

I may not win at NaNo, and you may not win. Big deal, right? There’s no prize, no money. So why do it? To say I did it. And if I don’t make it, will they send people out to my place to beat me up? No, so why worry about something so arbitrary as 50,000 words in 30 days?

Find Ways To Relax

One way to destress is to relax. I like to listen to music when I write. I don’t think about things like word count or hours put in until I’m done for the day. If I get stuck, I watch TV, and something usually pops in my head before too long. Stress will wreck any writer, especially one who tries this crazy contest where you don’t even get anything for winning.

Read Past NaNo Wins

All of my past NaNo projects not only hit the 50K in 30 days mark, they went on to be published novels. My last year’s project is done and will be launched at the beginning of December (I’ll let you know all about it when it happens). You can read your old stuff and either say, “Wow, I’m a good writer,” or, “Wow, I’m much better now than I was then.” Either way, you come out feeling good about yourself now.

Try The Big Picture

A lot of NaNoers win, but then drop it. What’s more important, hitting the 50K or finishing and publishing your novel? You can do both, and try for it. But if December comes and you’re less then 50K, keep on writing anyway. No novel is done after the first draft and most are not even a first draft at 50K words. Win or lose NaNo, just finish your novel and get it out there in the world.

This has been a brief article, but I need to get back to my novel, BOSS. I’ll let you know all about it next year or the year after when I get it published.

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Keys To Success

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All of us have some sort of aspirations for our Creative Writing careers. Success is different for each of us. While we may realize that triumph does not come about merely by well wishing, too many times we act as if it will. True victory in life, regardless of how we define it, will only come about by focus and dedication.

Like A Dog On A Bone

Have you ever seen a dog chew on a bone? He knows it’ll be a long and difficult process, but I have never seen focus in my life more than a dog on a bone. When I see that a dog has a bone, nothing can distract him from his task at hand. Even time does not weary him. You cannot take it from him, and after trying once, you’ll know not to try again. Not only will the dog win that tug-of-war, you could receive a war wound from this. You don’t even want to pet a dog when he’s working over a bone.

If we are going to find success in life, we needed to be as focused as a dog on a bone. Some people strive for success, but give up when the meticulousness of achievement wears down on them, but not a dog. Certain folk desire achievement, but strangely will let others take it from them. They don’t have the dog on a bone mentality. And just like a dog doesn’t like to be petted when he as a bone, we need to be weary of friends when it comes to our accomplishments. Our loved ones can be the one thing that can derail our victory train, and only if we let them. We don’t want to hurt our loved ones, and yet we will allow them to hurt us by blocking us from achieving ultimate victory in life.

Like A Gazelle Being Hunted

Sometimes you can define something by looking at its opposite. Success is not failing. Life is a pass/fail exam. So to do the things that keep you from failing will be in line with carrying out what you need for success. This is important because some people feel as if they can still fall just short of their aspirations and still be considered successful. That’s like saying you can strike out in baseball but think of it as a home run because you were close. If you strike out, you are out. No one in archery misses he target and yells, “Bulls eye!”

From the Bible, the sixth chapter from the book of Proverbs deals with the need to be industrious and productive. In the fifth verse, Solomon says, “Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter.” For a gazelle, success is not getting killed. Failure is not acceptable. Close enough and almost there still leave you as a trophy head on someone’s wall and steak dinners for the family. Run toward success, but also run away from failure. Run as if failure cannot be acceptable. Succeed or die! This is the only path to victory.

Going To The Mattresses

We have all heard the phrase “go to the mat,” especially when it is someone telling us how committed they are to some goal or project. They are willing to “go to the mat,” in other words, do what ever it takes to accomplish what they want. The phrase has grown threadbare and means little today, but its origins should breathe new life into the power of this claim.

It comes from the 1972 movie, “The Godfather,” and actually the phrase is “go to the mattresses.” Clemenza tells Pauly to see a guy downtown about picking up a bunch of mattresses (about 25 of them) because “Sonny is ready to go to the mattresses over this thing.” To go to the mattresses is gangster slang from this time meaning to go to all out war with a rival gang. These mobsters would have several rooms with nothing but mattresses covering the floor. These were for the soldiers in this makeshift barracks of sorts. If you are at war with another gangster, you are either on the street to kill someone or sleeping.

If success for us is just a little “it would be nice to” kind of fantasy, we will not succeed. Achieving our goals or not is the difference between eating and being eaten. It is winning and losing a war. All of these phrases have to do with survival. Human achievement is unique to people of dedication, and we need to keep it. We should all want something we can focus upon. If we have no dreams, no aspirations in this life, if we are not noted for accomplishments, but merely eat and sleep, nothing more, then we might as well be animals since this I how they exist. Dreams make us human and reaching them keeps us truly alive in every sense of the word.

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Your Muse Is Dead!

Someone had to say it, so I did. You’re Muse is dead, and so is mine. All of the anger and denial in the world cannot change that fact. You may feel as if the grieving process is setting in, but for those who are in mourning, my advice is to get over it, and as quickly as possible. This may be a terrible thing to say to one in sorrow for the loss of a love done, but the truth is not so much that you’re Muse is dead. More to the point, she never really existed.

The Trouble With Muses

We are all familiar with the Classical Muses. They were nine spirit-being sisters that belonged to the Greek Pantheon. It was their responsibility to provide direct and immediate divine inspiration for all artists. Ancient writers, such as Homer and Virgil, as well as ones closer to our times, like Milton and Joyce, appealed to the Muse to help them compose.

The Muse has become a symbol today for whatever inspires a writer. This could be something as broad as observing some interaction between folks that gives the writer an idea for a story. Or it could be a conversation overheard that the author feels may be reworked and put into the next novel.

There is another use for the figure of the Muse and that is to have her stand for motivation, and that is just sad. Many writers, including yours truly, have used a lack of inspiration as an excuse not to write. “I can’t write today. I’m just not inspired.” Does that sound familiar?

This excuse does not work in any other professional field, so writers should not be so especially privileged to avail themselves to it. Never has a lawyer failed to appear in court because he did not feel like practicing law that day. You’ll never hear of construction workers sitting about waiting to be inspired. And there has never been a teacher who missed class because of teacher’s block.

Writer’s block is another example of people blaming the absence of a Muse for their lack of productivity. When you get down to it, writer’s block is nothing more than attempting to write a perfect first draft. There’s no such thing as a perfect one-hundredth draft, so a perfect first draft is an ontological impossibility.

It was this drive for a perfect first draft that made me edit fiercely as I wrote. It took me almost four years to finish the initial draft, and then another four years to rewrite it properly, even though I’m sure it could still use some work. I would spend days on a paragraph and weeks on a page, all to make it flawless before I move on.

This mindset carried over into my second novel. I suffered from writer’s block for five months. It wasn’t because I didn’t know what came in the next scene. I was compelled to get it perfect the first time, and my Muse didn’t rescue me! There’s a surefire way to conquer writer’s block, and that is to get over your self and write. We need to give ourselves permission to write badly, as long as we commit ourselves to editing enormously.

Dedication Over Inspiration

Instead of waiting for the words to mystically come to you from above the bright blue, maybe writers should just hunker down and write. You are not going to feel Inspired to write every day outside of a self-governing motivation that is arises from your commitment to being a writer.

If you only sat down to compose when you felt this bit of Inspiration, then not only would you not write every day, but it’ll be at different times and different days. That also means you would have to write while in the shower or while driving or even while you are sleeping, because Inspiration may come at any time and under any circumstance.

If taking over the world is your measure for success, then it is time we went to the garage and pulled out a certain tool needed to accomplish this: the Ladder of Success. Notice that it is not the Elevator or the Escalator of Success. It’s also not Star Trek’s Transporter of Success, nor is it Doctor Who’s Tardis of Success. It’s a Ladder.

A Ladder only works because you climb it slowly one wrung at a time. You climb it by pulling yourself upward. That is how success is accomplished – slowly, one step at a time, and by our hard effort. No one pulls you up, and no one pushes you up. You are on your own. You may receive some help now and then, but basically, no one will make you successful but you.

Climbing the Ladder of Success means setting goals. Some people climb the Ladder of Success only to find out too late they set it against the wrong wall. You need to know what you are trying to accomplish. You need a clearly defined meaning of Success.

Setting goals means you must establish priorities. These are the means by which you accomplish your goal. The college student who strives for a 4.0 GPA will not be out every night with friends, but with his textbooks. He won’t be hanging out eating pizza, but hanging tough digesting the course material. He will be out of his dorm room, but not out on the town, but studying in the library.

The creative writer has his definition of success, and knows there must be effort put into platform building, online social media networking, and marketing designs. But all of this is unpulled taffy if the writer is not committed to the craft of writing to the point of writing every day.

So your Muse is dead. Big deal, she never existed anyway. Or maybe this can be said another way. Maybe your Muse is not dead, but alive. Maybe she exists in you because she is a living part of you. Best said, she is you. Creative writers who are committed to success realize that they are their own Muse.

Where do you get your Inspiration to write. what do you do when you need to write but you don’t feel Inspired? I would love to know. Let me know in the Comment section below. I would also like to encourage you to Share or Tweet this if you liked this. Maybe your friends will enjoy it, too.

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