And now, for your enjoyment: a chapter from “The Juggling Author”
THE number one problem I hear from authors when they can’t write fast or often is that they are a slave to the whims of THE MUSE. The Muse is an insane belief that you can only write when you’re inspired. That you have to feel it coursing through your veins like the Holy Spirit, otherwise the words you write won’t be any good, and you’ll only produce crap because you’re not good enough or talented enough or blah blah blah.
Let me state, clearly, for the record:
Your muse is a useless asshole.
Ahem. Sorry for the harsh language, but I don’t know any way to say it more plainly. This idea that you need to feel something magical before you can sit down at your keyboard to make art is untrue. It’s a myth. An urban legend.
Firefighters do not ever jump out of the truck in front of a burning building, shrug, and say, “I just don’t feel like I can fully commit to dousing this burning building with water today. Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow and be able to give it the firefighting it deserves. For now, I’m going home to mainline episodes of Gilmore Girls until bedtime.”
As the saying goes, plumbers don’t experience plumbers’ block.
Your muse is a myth. If you want to make writing your career—or at least be prolific—you need to treat it like a career. You need to show up, even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you’d rather be binge-watching that new show that you don’t really need to watch, even if you’d rather waste an hour looking at cat videos on Facetwitter (our new social network, coming next year!), even when you’d rather spend an hour staring out the back yard window at those squirrels chasing each other around the tree.
These are times you should be writing instead. Make it a habit to pare down slack-off time and replace it with productivity, and soon enough, you won’t know how to slack off anymore. Make efficiency a habit, and you’ll get better and better at it.
I removed all the stupid tappy tappy games from my phone. After a few days, I didn’t miss them anymore, and now I actually write when I have a few spare minutes instead of trying to rack up coins in pointless casual games.
With mobile tools now (more on apps later), that ten minutes sitting at the doctor’s office you might otherwise waste reading some stupid magazine published four years ago? Spend it writing.
Sitting in the school parking lot, waiting to pick up your kid after lawn darts practice? Spend that time writing.
Sitting in the movie theater, waiting for the movie to start? Writing.
Am I getting across to you here?
Your muse is a myth. Something the evil part of your brain uses to subjugate the good part of your brain. Don’t let it. Instead, make productivity your slave. Own it. Be a machine.
But, you’re saying, sometimes I write words, then I read them back, and they sound like crap to me. I feel compelled to backspace over the entire thing, because I can’t bear the thought of anyone—including myself—ever seeing those abominations of the English language.
First of all, drama queen much? And second of all, sounds like your problem is reading back the words you’ve written, not the words themselves. Especially in first draft mode, you should NEVER do a review of your daily words when you’re done with your session. Unless somehow you accidentally start writing a different story in the middle of your current one, there’s no reason to go back and evaluate or erase anything you’ve created.
Give it time to breathe. Come back later and fix it. That’s why you have to give yourself permission to write crappy in first draft, because bad prose was meant to be fixed.
And tell your lousy, know-it-all muse to shut the hell up.