‘1 (in Greek and Roman mythology) each of nine goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who preside over the arts and sciences.
2 A person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.’
It’s a much debated topic in writing circles and often the advice given by authors is not to use lack of inspiration feeling as an excuse for not writing, and I can see the proactive merits of this argument in encouraging writers to keep writing, and to keep to a writing and publishing schedule. However, in this post I’m also going to discuss the merits of the other side of the argument.
1. There is no compelling reason to write all the time
Beyond enjoyment, if you’re not a career author who earns a living then there is less pressure on you to deliver a number of words by a specific time. It’s probably at this time you need to ask yourself why it is you’re writing: for the deadline, for the income, or for the enjoyment. Perhaps it’s all three, but if it’s only for enjoyment and time is on your side, why pressure yourself to write all the time, no matter what?
On the contrary, I think regular breaks from writing can put things in perspective more and you can be more in tune with the feeling rather than the words or a trusted story template.
2. Not every writer is on a publishing schedule
Not all writers are at the stage where they must publish a book, so making them believe they should feel forced to churn out maybe 1,000–5,000 words at least three or four days a week is a big commitment to writing: a toe dip in the deep end of the pool. That example was a bit ambitious, but I think many writers do want to become ambitious, to be published authors like the greats, and this system may not be conducive to their growth as writers.
3. Writers who tell you to write all the time have to write all the time
A lot of the writers who are career authors and are on publishing schedules and deadlines will tell you to ditch your writing muse and to stick to a schedule for the completion of your story. It works for them; they can complete stories using this method. They ‘have’ to complete stories using this method to meet deadlines, and sometimes their advice is edged with a cynicism: sick-of-listening-to-new-authors-and-their-inspiration-when-I-have-work-to-do.
That being said, if you want to complete your stories to a deadline, using a schedule like this can help. Writing muse or no-writing muse, completing stories is possible. There is a choice.
The disadvantage of this method is that sometimes you find yourself automating the writing process, as you would a job, to meet a schedule or deadline, and this can detract from the enjoyment if you feel ‘compelled’ to write rather than you ‘wanting’ to write.
4. Writing with muse is to blame?
This is how many professional writers say it works with writing muse: after a specific length of time you’ll run out of ideas and be left lost, and you’ll ‘never complete that story’. The word count apparently stops, there is no writing routine to get the writing done, and you end up convincing all your friends you will eventually get round to some writing or to completing that story. You can’t write one thousand words in a free day without feeling lost and uninspired. You don’t really know what to write about.
When the muse comes you spend a full two weeks writing a twenty-thousand word story, but it’s not complete, and the process in the above paragraph repeats itself. I have experience of this cycle myself!
‘Muse writer’ changes into a ‘proper writer’
It doesn’t have to be like that. It shouldn’t be like that. When it is, something is wrong, and your writing muse is blamed – the very thing that got you writing in the first place. The writing muse is squashed; it’s not working or expanding in the way it did at first and you’re confused and frustrated why. There is all this pressure to be the writer you were or know you are, and naturally you blame the muse for not delivering results. You end up in the Writer’s Block Station.
Your muse got you here, you say. If you just pulled yourself together and wrote like a proper writer, then it would be fine. In fact, you realise you need to re-learn how to write, away from instinct, feeling, and art into the realms of craft, template, strategy, demand, results, word count, and deadlines. You now know how to be a ‘proper writer’, measured by results you achieve and the demands expected of writers in the publishing industry, be this traditional or indie.
That’s how it often happens.
5. Writing with muse completes stories?
It’s time for a change of perspective. What if the muse was developed instead?
It’s the word count that may be the problem, and the reason why you blame yourself and your muse for not completing your story: that pressure you put on yourself to complete a 60,000 or 70,000-word novel or more, for all the difference the exact word count really makes to you as a writer and not a recognised/published author. You can choose to develop the muse and see where it takes you or to fit the mould. Most writers are advised to do the latter.
If you think about it, a novel is a huge beast to tackle, and this is why all writers tackle it in smaller pieces. When you stick to a schedule, you’re getting the words down, and it all adds up. You may be aware you’re only working on a first draft, and getting those words down is acceptable, but you can lose motivation with a schedule as much as with relying on writing muse. You can argue that this is why you have made a schedule, but it may not make a difference to you when you want to write what you enjoy, instead of expecting yourself to write what you ‘should’ be writing.
I favour a step-by-step approach to writing, based on enjoyment and inspiration, and being in tune with your development as a writer. When we lose all three of those things, it’s the path to writer’s block or seeing writing purely as ‘work’; something that has to be done for a specific purpose. Why lose the foundation that got you started writing in the first place?
Writing with muse completes stories too. I wrote my first four self-published novels with my muse, and I’ve continued to write numerous drafts with it. When I stop going where my instincts take me, or I tell myself I have to complete a specific project or get x number of words, then this is when I have problems and my writing grinds to a halt. It has happened every time, now I think about it. The real task is finding your source of inspiration and getting in touch with it, which a lot of writers don’t know how to do, not blasting out the words. I think it’s the pressure that’s to blame: that pressure perpetuated by writers and industry professionals who are under pressure themselves. It creates generations of insecure writers who are too afraid to share their writing, be published, or to go with their gut feeling.
Conclusion – writing tips and publishing tips
- Put time on your side and develop your writing voice and style without pressure of expectation.
- It’s easy to expect too much of yourself and to prepare to publish straight away.
- Prioritise your writing before publishing, and only approach publishing when you’re ready.
- Take breaks from your main projects before rushing to make decisions on them.
- Listen to advice from friends and writer acquaintances on anything you’re unsure about.