Motivation and muse are tricky things. Sometimes they are discovered through careful planning or trial and error. Sometimes they hit you like a freight train with no intention of stopping.
When Your Muse is too Quiet
I have never been asked what my muse is or how I stay motivated to write, and frankly I am glad of this because both of mine are a little odd and confusing. While I have never been asked, I have heard other writers answer this question. The one that resonates with me the most is from Laurell K. Hamilton, one of our 2018 PPWC keynote speakers. She said that even on days when her muse is not with her and her motivation is lacking, she will sit down at the computer and write. It doesn’t even have to be her story, it can be complaining about not wanting to write.
I thought about this for a while after the conference, wondering why this particular technique works for her. Ms. Hamilton can release a book in a year, from first words to shelves so there must be something to this sort of stream of thought writing. What I came up with was that she was able to get all of her yuck out of the way so that the characters would speak to her again. Sometimes we just need to get all the yuck out of our heads, all of the I don’t want to do this anymore kind of things. I realize that it makes room for the story to grow without all of the issues we are having with writing getting in the way. I don’t mind saying that I have tried this, and it works! It isn’t my normal process, but it really does work.
First, find your time. Some people are morning people, some people are…well not. Some people are completely awake at night while others can’t make it past 9:30 pm. All of these times are great, but you need to find yours. Mine came one night while I was up with my sick son. He had just fallen asleep and I didn’t want to be woken up again in 20 minuets, so I started writing. At first it was only to keep myself awake, but then I realized that I was writing quickly and it seemed like the story was just flowing out of me. Here is the kicker, my time is around 3:00 am. Yeah, tell me about it.
Second, do you work well under pressure or under a zero stress environment? For me, I work better under pressure, so I found a group that does word sprints. I LOVE WORD SPRINTS! They light a fire under me like no one’s business. It’s the competition and the pressure of seeing how many words I can churn out in the allotted period of time. Now, this isn’t for everyone, other people need a stress free environment to write. They might need a clean desk, their tea, and the quiet. So you should figure out if you do better under pressure or with a calming pressure free environment. When you find that, run with it!
Last, find a good word processor that really speaks to you. Some people don’t need the frills, but I do. My word processor of choice is Scrivener. So many frills that it takes 2 hours to go through the tutorial! For me, this baby does it all, it allows me to write in the messy way that I do and rearrange my scenes as much as I like while still keeping track of everything. If frills isn’t your cup of tea, then that’s fine, there are so many word processors that will do the job with no extras. Everything from Notebook (you know…that simple note taking program that comes on all windows computers), to Microsoft Word, to browser word processors like Fighters Block or 4thewords. They’re all great, you just have to find the one that works for you.
So, in short, muse and motivation are tricky. Finding them is different for every person. But know this, when you do find yours, it will completely change your writing life. I found mine through a mix of surprise and trial and error. I know you’ll be able to find yours. In the mean time, try Ms. Hamilton’s process. Maybe it’ll clear the yuck enough for your muse and motivation to come through.
Sam Crane lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two children. She is first and foremost a wife and mother, who has joyfully taken on the additional responsibility of homeschooling a preschooler. In her free time. Sam began reading when she was 4 years old but never really tried to write fiction until she was an adult. Encouraged by one of her good friends, she is now currently working on her first novel combining her love of the Fantasy with a bit of Horror.