The inspiration myth and the limits to writing anyway

It’s been a while since I’ve believed I needed inspiration to write or muse or that sudden urge that drives you into crazy writing highs. I’ve had those, usually because I kept working and some days it’s a bit of a drag and others you couldn’t imagine a more perfect way to spend your time.

I like having a writing routine; I like being accountable to myself – to say: it’s not okay if I just don’t write all day. It’s how I get things done and it’s been working really well. I owe that to the sage advice of many who cured me of any notion that writer’s block exists, or that excuses count for anything, or that I have to wait for a divine intervention to sprout words onto the screen.

This week, though, I think I found a limit to that rule. I finished the first draft of a novella last week and my plan was to let it rest for a week or two, finish up the After Life Lessons edits, work on some other projects that need editing and to spend my daily wordcount on erotic short stories for submission calls. It seemed reasonable. I don’t like stopping in the middle of longer projects to write short stories, and neither am I great at diving into the next big thing without any time to digest the last.

So I made plans, and because I wrote them down and because there’s no such thing as writer’s block and excuses don’t count, I worked on those short stories last week. I also did my last editing run of After Life Lessons and did some mayor rewrites on the first 4 chapters of a YA novel I wrote last year. The short stories, though… they didn’t go so well. I finished one, and got through half of another, but it felt like pulling teeth. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. This was not supposed to happen. I had cracked the writing secret, hadn’t I?

And yes, this will come as no surprise to anyone but it still took me a week, a lot of self-doubt and bad moods to figure out: I don’t have to be inspired — but I have to be excited. I can force myself to work on something I love even if I don’t feel like it that day, but I can’t force myself to write something I don’t want to work on, something I only write because I put it on a list and rationally, the timing is good, even though I pretty much need a break from erotica after finishing Trading Tides.

My head is already wrapped up in more zombie stories and ideas for the After Life Lessons sequel. It’s spun in fantastically awesome circles coming up with an idea for a YA book about an anarchist witch – and no. I had no awesome, exciting idea for an erotic short. Or, the one I had, was for the submissions call that’s the furthest away, so I benched it and tried to force some others.

I’m not gonna do that anymore. Next week, I’ll concentrate on editing and rewriting. That’s what’s important to me right now – not bragging rights, that I never stood still. That I kept producing, that my word-count at the end of the year will be more impressive than the last. None of that matters to me at all.

And I might have to reread this a few times, to make sure I stick to this. A little force is good – but too much, and you’re just unkind to yourself.


~ ROW80 – Round 1 – Sunday Check-In Week 5 ~

Goal #1: Complete Trading Tides (Driftwood Deeds sequel, ~30k). ♥ On track.

Still sitting on the finished first draft and letting it rest as I planned.

Goal #2: Complete After Life Lessons Edits + get it ready for publication. ♥ On track.

Definitely and absolutely on track. I got through my last copy edits last week and now Lorrie is doing hers — and it looks like we’ll have our clean ARCs next week as planned.

Goal #3: Complete By The Light Of The Moon Edits + get ready for publication.

I decided to edit Where the Wind Settles first, but I edited 4 chapters on that, so I’m pretty happy with that. I realized that the rewrites will be pretty extensive, switching point of view for most of the novel, so it takes time. Feels good though :).

Goal #4: Complete Forest Fires edits + start shopping it around. 

Still no changes. And as Lorrie is moving house and already rather overworked, I don’t think we’ll get to it next week either.

Goal #5: Write a total of 80k (on my own) in that time. ♥ On track.

Ish. As I said above, I didn’t write that much last week – I think it was about 4k on short stories and about 3k on rewrites. So, it’s on track, ish, but I wasted a lot of time trying to force something I didn’t want to be doing.

Miscellanea.

– Read 3 books (now up to 11/50)

– Wrote 1,5 short stories.

4 Comments

  1. What an awesome discovery you’ve made! =)

    I believe in doing what brings me joy and fires me up. I intentionally have many goals, so that, when words aren’t there, I can move forward on other things (editing and organizing seem to help bring forth the words.)

    I think there’s good advice to be found out there- but it’s only good when it works for us, in our own circumstances. Maybe the best possible advice is to take all advice and filter it through who we are, and how we create.

    Fighting against my own nature never works, for me. I’ve made so much more progress with learning how I tick, so that I know which advice works for me. Forcing myself never does; and when I write what I’m not ready for, it’s never worth the time I spent making myself do it.

    I spend a lot time “writing” while doing dishes, taking a shower, or driving. I need time to percolate, to gather input, to let connections form between seemingly disparate things.

    Tonight, I’m watching Enterprise, out of order, because I have a scene simmering, and, when I sleep tonight, i want certain ideas in my mind. Dreaming helps, at this point.

    I’m also making pre-revision notes on a WIP, and in the process of rereading another. That helps too.

    Tomorrow, or the next day, I’ll be writing the scene. I’m almost juiced up enough (it’s going to be an erotic scene, and there’s just no point trying if I don’t personally feel the edge of urgency these two characters are going to feel at their long-awaited first sexual encounter.

    I hope you find the approaches that work best for you! =D

    • Thank you for your wonderful and thoughtful comments. It really resonated with me. For me, I do force myself to some degree when it’s just to overcome initial laziness etc. because I have often felt that I get fired up by doing — i.e. I force myself for 10 minutes and then I’m excited. I don’t get excited out of nothing. But yeah, I have to learn to listen to myself when this doesn’t work, when it actually is time to do something else.

  2. Your post really got me thinking. While I think that waiting for divine inspiration to strike is foolish, I don’t think writer’s block is a myth. However, I do think there are ways to prevent writer’s block from wreaking havoc on our writing routine and productivity. Writer’s block is just another thing that we have to overcome in order to be a professional writer. We can’t not write because we’re feeling blocked, and I definitely don’t support just trying to wait for the writer’s block to go away.

    We have to find a way to become unblocked and unstuck–sooner rather than later–and I think that can be a stumbling point for a lot of us. For me, I don’t have to feel excited about a story 24/7, but I do have to care deeply about the characters. That way, when I eventually become frustrated with some part of the story, I have this urge to reach the end so that my characters can find their happily ever after. 🙂

    Have a great week!

  3. Rather easier to blame a muse who doesn’t visit. But your words take me right back to January, when most of my efforts were fighting formatting instead of writing story. I think we all have those days of doubt, but here, your nugget resonated for me. “I have to be excited about the story.” Yes! It could be the story, the characters, the plot, but something has to pull us right into the process of writing — and caring about and loving our characters and the story. My lesson this week is that even if I write what seems to be gibberish, it takes me further the next day. May the coming week go well for you.

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