So January was one of the most exciting months I've ever had because my debut came out. Having a dream come true is pretty surreal. But January also turned out to be a tough month because beyond going through the The 5 Emotional Stages of a Book Launch , I found myself with writer's block.
Now, many will say writer's block doesn't exist. It's just fear or your subconscious telling you that you've made a wrong turn. Yes, maybe. Any mine was probably a little of both, but that didn't make it any less real, lol. I have a book due in March and literally had a month where I didn't move forward more than one chapter--scary stuff.
Thankfully, *knocks on wood* I've seemed to moved past it over the last week and a half. I'm getting about 1k a day in, which is not going to break any speed records, but is steadily moving forward. I'm a little past 50k with the goal of a 90k-100k book by the end of March.
But anyway, this has me looking back at January and wondering what went wrong. Why did I get so blocked? One of the reasons is because I'd hit the middle and I tend to get stuck at the halfway point in every book, but what made this block so long?
And I realized I pretty much beat the ever-loving crap out of my muse in January. Our creativity is a lovely, strange thing filled with ideas as fragile as soap bubbles. We have to guard it, feed it, and cultivate it if we want it to continue to serve us.
But there are parts of this writer life that can stomp on that lovely, fragile thing and drain it. And launching a book happens to involve a lot of these.
So what are the muse abusers and what can you do about them?
1. Negative feedback
This one is a catch-22 because we need feedback and solid critiques to grow as writers. We need other eyes to give us unbiased opinions. However, that negativity can also stifle our creativity. It pushes in those ugly things like self-doubt and insecurity. Maybe I can't write. Maybe I should give up now. This is unfixable. I'm a hack.
What to do: Get yourself critique partners that know how to give constructive feedback. Not just--I hate this or this totally doesn't work--but people who have the ability to tell you why it doesn't work (i.e. your character is not sympathetic or this creates a plot hole.) If you're in a group where people get mean or sarcastic, leave it. That's not helpful. And if you're published, stop reading the bad reviews. This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way last month. When you read reviews like "at least she can spell" (yeah, that was one of mine), your muse pretty much flips you off and tells you it refuses to work in a hostile work environment.
2. Sucking your muse dry
We're supposed to blog and tweet and write guest posts and newsletter articles and and and... Well, all those things take some level of creativity. Now, I've been writing a blog post every weekday for almost three years. That hasn't hurt my muse because it sort of acts like my "morning pages" where I get the brain in gear. BUT, last month when I kept up my normal blogging plus added 1-2 guests posts daily Well, that drained me. I'd finish the second or third blog post that day then open my WIP and stare. I'd used all my words and energy already on something else.
What to do: Find the balance that works for you. If blogging daily effects your writing, cut back. Do Anne R. Allen's once-a-week slow blogging. Writing has to come first. And if you're releasing a book, plan ahead for your blog tour. Stockpile guests posts when you're not actively drafting a project.
3. Scaring the life out of your muse
Putting pressure on your creativity can work in one of two ways. Some people thrive on that pressure--a tight deadline gets their juices flowing. Others (like me), it works the opposite. Here's my brain: Oh shit, this book is due in two months and if I can't write such and such words each day, I'm going to FAIL. And what if this book isn't as good as the others? And what if I let those people who love this character down with his story? And what if this is the first time I can't finish a book? *taps forehead* Yep, it's a scary place in there. Needless to say, all those thoughts left my muse cowering in a corner.
What to do: Be aware of the pressures, then ignore them. Pretend like you're writing for fun only. Worrying isn't going to get anything accomplished; it will just make things worse. And remember that you will hate every book you write at some point. In every book you'll think--this isn't good enough, this is never going to work, I hate these characters and this was a stupid idea. It will pass.
4. Trying to please everyone
I'm a people pleaser by nature. I want everyone to like me even when I know that's not a realistic goal. And that sentiment applies to my books. But if I try to hold in my head "I hope my agent, editor, every reader on the planet loves this", I only overwhelm myself and my muse. Look at reviews on any book and you'll see opposing viewpoints. I've gotten everything from "this is so mild it shouldn't be called erotic" to "this is the hottest book I've ever read." Luckily most reviews fall on the latter, but it just shows that everyone is coming at your book with a different pespective.
What to do: Write for YOU first. Draft the story that you want to read. These are your characters in a world you created. What do you want to see happen next? Worry about your editor and your ideal reader when you're revising.
5. Starving your muse
Sometimes we get so focused on getting the writing done, that we forget to feed our creativity. We expect the well to keep producing without us replenishing it. And I know I'm guilty of this. I get obsessed with "working" and I feel like I don't deserve a break because I have so much to do.
What to do: Take time out to refill the well. Read for pleasure. Take a walk. Go somewhere other than your laptop. People watch. See a movie. Play with your kids. Take a few hours with the sole purpose of getting nothing accomplished. Inspiration doesn't take kindly to demands, let it out to play sometimes.
Now we'll see if I'm able to take my advice the next time around, lol.
So how about you? Have you experienced writer's block? Has your muse ever flipped you off and taken a vacation to Aruba? What do you do to nurture your creativity?