Posted in procrastination, The Writer's Toolbox, writer's block, writing blues, writing discipline, writing everyday, writing journey, writing time

Writing Procrastination and What To Do About It

Procrastination plagues all writers at one time or another in the writing journey. It’s a barrier that must be broken through to be a writer, and separates the casual writer from the real writers. Procrastination a tricky beast that takes on the face of many problems like writer’s block, the missing muse, the “I don’t have time to write” excuse, or how about the “I can’t write, because I’m just not that good at it anyways.”

Say what!? That stuff isn’t procrastination. No. No. No. Those things are real problems. Really they are. Aren’t they?

Come on. Let’s be honest. Let’s call it what it really is. It is procrastination. What does procrastination mean? It means not wanting to do something. And all the excuses above do what? It makes it so we don’t do anything at all. Sure we want to write. We talk about it all the time, but talking is NOT writing. So we talk and we use terms like writers block or the missing muse. Or say things like “I don’t have time to write”, or “I can’t write, because I’m just not that good at it anyways.” But all this talking is just keeping us from writing.

Writer’s block. It’s hard to be even semi serious about writing without hearing those words at some point. I used to be someone who used the term writer’s block like it was a real thing and it actually meant something. And then I pushed past the barrier of procrastination and discovered for the first time what being a writer really meant. I don’t get writer’s block anymore. I’m simply a procrastinator when I don’t write. I call it what it really is. The best way to fight writer’s block is to writer EVERY SINGLE DAY, even if it’s 10 minutes of mental vomit or what some call free writing. Eventually, that “block” will fall away as a solution to the problem is revealed.

Ever heard or said this before? “Well, my muse is missing. I can’t write.” Wrong. Real writers write with or without any inspiration. We just do it, because there is no other option. Real writers write when there isn’t a spark of inspiration to be found. Real writers understand the importance of keeping up the momentum of writing, because stopping means losing the drive to write and it often means a project goes unfinished or a deadline is missed. We all live for those rare moments when that bolt of lightening hits us and says “Look at this awesome new idea.” But in reality most writers just write. There is no magic lightening moment. There is no little spark that jump starts a writing project. Writers write, and every once in a while, they are rewarded with being immersed in the Writing Zone. And that sort of experience is better than any muse any day of the week.

And then there’s the “I don’t have time” excuse. There is always time to write. Really there is. Cut out that three hour television watching marathon right before bed and write. Get up a little earlier in the mornings and do writing before the day gets started. Stop wasting time surfing the internet and use it to write. I’m sure a closer look at the daily routine will shed some light on where time is spent, and what can be reduced so writing can have its time. Ultimately, sacrifices will have to be made. The real question to ask is… “How bad do you want it?”

Let’s not forget the “I can’t write, because I’m just not that good at it anyways.” No one is a good writer. Not at first. Not even ofter a few years at it. Writing takes a long, long time to cultivate. It takes lots of practice. It takes lots of mistakes. It takes time. It takes dedication and a full commitment. Writing is like a muscle in the body. It only gets better with practice. The more practice, the stronger it gets. Good writing doesn’t happen overnight. And writing is never perfect, no matter how many years of working at it, but it does get better. And there’s no better feeling in the world than to compare work from one year to the next. It’s a measuring stick that makes all the effort, all the sacrifices mean something.

Want to be a writer, a real writer? Then stop procrastinating and stop using words like writer’s block and missing muse. Find some time to carve out for writing only. Guard that time. Be jealous of that time and let nothing hedge in on that time. And be a writer with mistakes and all. The next time procrastination rears its ugly head, tell it to shut up and just write.

Posted in being a child, better writing, Boosting Creativity, creativity, creativity blues, inspiration, inspirational, sparking creativity, the creative process, The Writer's Toolbox, writer's block, writing, writing advice

Want to Be More Creative? Bring Out the Inner Child

Let’s face it, creativity is the bread and butter of being a writer. It’s the spark that gets the imagination going and is an essential part of coming up with something interesting to write about. It would stand to reason, then, if a writer has trouble coming up with ideas for writing, what a person really might be having problems with is creativity. This problem can be fixed by bringing out the inner child that resides in all of us.

Be a child? Oh, yes, Be a child. Act like a child. Think like a child. Why? Because children are some of the most creative individuals out there. I know this because I have a four year old and I love watching him play because his creativity is so fresh and unencumbered by the restrictions of adulthood. If I need inspiration to write or come up with new ideas, all I have to do is spend some time with my son, and every time I come away with insights I’d never considered before.

The thing what floors me is that these insights are usually so simple and obvious, but most adults (like myself) are too busy to see the simple anymore, though, it’s not just the simple, but really the incapability of looking at things from a different point of view. Sometimes creativity can be sparked just by breaking the brittle rust from our own minds and allowing us a change of view. It’s about having an open-mindedness to embrace new ideas no matter where or how they come, just as a child is naturally programed to do.

It’s a big scary world out there and it’s full of stuff that needs to be done right away. This often has a person running like crazy, or simply consumed by the day-to-day issues that hampers all adult lives. It’s no wonder with all the bill paying, job responsibilities, laundry folding, and rushing kids back and forth to school and soccer practice that the inner child disappears all together to be replaced with a mask of constant responsibility. This mask can be difficult to take off and sometimes it’s just downright inconvenient to do so. Other times, the responsibility of adulthood has consumed a person to the point of no return and the thought of being “child like” is repulsive.

When I have creativity “issues,” I have to remind myself to stop being so serious and let the mask of responsibility be put away from time to time, allowing for something that is so incredible as letting the inner child take control. It’s a freeing and satisfying thing to let happen, and it can do wonders for a mind of stone. Letting the inner child time to play, will loosen up that stone, which will then, morph into a waterfall of ideas that may even be difficult to contain.

Need some ideas on how to access your inner child? Swing in that swing on the playground, dance in the rain, build a sandcastle, eat ice cream with gummy bears, and if you don’t have a child, then borrow one. Get down on their level and play for awhile. If you’re like me, you’ll be amazed at what you discover, and might find yourself inspired to do something never before considered. Just make sure to keep a notebook handy to write down the sparks of creativity, as you let the inner child play.

Posted in Barbara Baig, book review, books, experimental writing, free writing, How to Be a Writer, learning to write, nonfiction, writer's block, writing book

Book Review: How to Be a Writer

At the beginning of the month I picked up a book that drastically changed my way of thinking as a writer. It is why I took a bit of a hiatus from this blog so that I could focus on the book and what it had to offer. I have to say it has made a significant impact on me. Barbara Baig’s How to be a Writer gave me what no other writing book or writing class had given me, permission to explore and experiment in my writing.

My writing up to this point has been a self guided tour of something I’ve always wanted to do. I lacked the specific education and knowledge of how to be a writer, so I struck out on my own to find my way. In that journey, I found I really enjoyed writing and what it had to offer me. I occasionally had good ideas to write about, but as I wrote and practiced the craft of writing, I was constantly blocked by insufficient ideas to write about and believed I had a really bad case of writer’s block.

This became quite frustrating even though I had helpful advice from writing friends, online classes and other writing books. I knew in my head about the writing process and how to fight writer’s block, but it wasn’t until I read Barbara’s book that explained it in a way I could understand. I realized that it wasn’t that I had writer’s block, but my approach to writing was hindering my ability to write.

Barbara’s book is full of writing exercises centered around free writing, which asks questions that keep the pen moving. She also explains the writing process in great detail, breaking it down into individual parts of the seven main writer’s powers (Creativity, Memory and Expertise, Observation, Imagination, The Subconscious, Curiosity, and the Sherlock Holmes School of Writing). She discusses how to develop the content-mind of a writer and how to write to readers instead of for readers.

The book is all about empowering the writer and I highly recommend it anyone who is just beginning as a writer, or the seasoned writer who needs to get back in touch with their inner writer. It certainly helped me and I will continue to use on my never-ending journey of how to be a writer.

 

Posted in creativity, creativity blues, inspiration, magic, read, The Writer's Toolbox, writer's block, writing, writing advice

The Missing Muse Part 2: Rediscovering the Magic

Part one of this series talked about the Muse or magic and how it can slip away on us at the most inopportune times, but here are some ways to get that creativity back. Nothing inspires inspiration more than other’s creativity, so that is why the first 4 suggestions are listed first. All the asterisks are the things I do on a regular basis to help stimulate the Muse. As you can see, it usually takes more than one way to keep the Muse strong. It’s about overlapping the inspiration to what works best for you and creating a lifestyle that the Muse feels stimulated to stay in.

*Listen to inspirational music: What types of music inspires you to write? Make a playlist and play it. Write to it or simply play it in the background until the Muse decides to speak.

*Find a picture that touches a cord within: There are may times when surfing through the internet or looking through books that I find a picture that I have to stop and stare at. It calls to me and something inside blossoms. Find those pictures, remember those pictures and create a scrap book of them (either online or an actual book) to reference for when the they are needed the most.

*Read things that move you: Read everything and anything. Find things you like and things you hate. Know what is out there so that it can be used in future stories or avoided like the plague. Mostly just read and you might be surprised when and where the magic might hit. Read blogs, inspiring emails, a good book, short stories, magazines, the backs of cereal boxes, anything and everything is game so dive in and be prepared to be inspired.

*Find quotes that inspire: It’s amazing how a short cluster of words can be the catalyst to an spectacular moment when light bulbs go off and the Muse kicks into to high gear. It’s happened to me many a time, so get in the habit of looking for quotes that inspire and make a library of them to be gazed upon when the Muse grows distant. Check out this site to search for your quote.

Go for a walk: Sometimes it is a simple matter of displacing oneself from the normality and routine of the everyday to get in touch with the Muse. A great way to do this is to go for a walk. It also gets the blood pumping, which is also a good way to get the brain working. So drop what you’re doing and get outside to enjoy the beauty in the world around. Inspiration might just be down the block from your doorway.

*Meditate on a regular basis: Another great way to get the Muse to come is to meditate, especially on a regular basis. Meditation is all about clearing the mind of the everyday clutter and junk so that the mind can rest, once rested the mind can then focus better. So sit down and take 10 or 15 minutes a day to sweep out the trash and be amazed at what you find in the cobwebbed corners. Check out this website to help learn how to meditate and here is a video as well.

Try something new: Sometimes finding the spark of creativity is about stepping out of the normal and trying something new. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t? A sport, learn to dance, learn a new language, learn to scuba dive, be more out-going, ect… Try it and it may even earn a spot in your next story.

*Take time out to observe the world around you and become inspired by what you see: The knowledge we posses is what makes us great writers and gives us tools to create the prefect character and universe, if we stunt out knowledge then we stunt the Muse within. Get inspired by observing the world around. Sit on a park bench and watch kids play, go to the mall and watch people shop, get outside and observe nature around you, let the world around you bring the Muse back to life.

Watch a movie that has inspired you in the past: It’s important to note here that if you want REAL inspiration you should turn the television off because it is usually more of a distraction than a help, but at times there are movies that can inspire writing. For me that would be movies like Gladiator or Adaptation. And the TV series Doctor Who. Every time I watch these emotionally charged movies and show, I always leave with a deep sense of profound wonder as it sparks the beauty within.

*Spend time and talk to other writers: This can end up a two way street. The writer(s) may inspire you and in return you might be the one to inspire, either way it’s a wonderful thing to be able to share your successes and failures as a writer. Some times talking to someone who shares your passion of writing can make all the difference in the world.

*Free write: To be a good writer one must first develop the habit of being a writer, which means writing everyday. This can be difficult sometimes, especially when the Muse is playing hide and seek, but I find free writing a great way to expel the the clutter from the mind and allow the Muse to flow. Several ways to free write is using writing prompts or just write for a period of time about anything that might come to mind usually 10 to 15 minutes.

Sometimes the spark of creativity is so buried that it might need some “extra” help.  This is when the big guns should come out. It then becomes a matter of peeling back the thick layers that are keeping you from reaching your muse.

Extra help (the big guns)

Face a fear: Fear can be our biggest hurtle in life and it can often hold us back on multiple levels. Facing a fear (fear of failure, fear of success, fear of talking to people, ect.) can help unlock the Muse and let it flow more freely.

Address an issue that’s been a problem: There are others things that can cause interference with the Muse. If a problem becomes so big that it dominates all other thoughts, it can quite literally choke the life right out of the Muse. These problems can include things like: an issue with a friend or family, financial difficulties, something that’s always on your mind that normally wouldn’t be, a medical issue that you’ve been avoiding, ect.

Take a piece of writing from when you first started writing and compare it to your current work: This can be a real eye opener. It’s easy as a writer to become discouraged and think that the progress we are making is not going anywhere. You begin to think, “What’s the point?” The next time this happens take out a piece of writing from when you first started, or even a year ago, and compare to what you’re currently working on and see for yourself just how far you’ve come. You might be surprised at what you discover.

It really all boils down to your mind. If you want to be more creative, if you want to rediscover the magic, if you want to get in touch with the Muse, change your mind. Once your mind is in the right place, then you’ll be free to focus on the creativity within. Don’t let the world distract you from being who you want to be.

 

 
Posted in creativity blues, inspiration, inspirational, magic, The Writer's Toolbox, writer's block, writing, writing advice

The Missing Muse Part 1: Where Did the Magic Go?

Have you ever found yourself writing without a muse? One minute it’s there and the next it’s gone just like a puff of smoke. You do everything but stand on your head to try to get it back and your muse laughs as it plays the elusive game of hide and seek, taunting you in a devilish manner. This seems to be a common problem for me, in fact I have gone weeks, even months without a muse. I write anyways, but the writing is more force and even unnatural. I begin to wonder why I started writing in the first place.

The magic is gone and all I’m left with is a stack of tasks to complete that builds into a mountain too high to climb: getting that story ready for submission, working on the second draft of a novel, outlining a new story idea, connecting with fellow writers, critiquing a friend’s story, brushing up on good writing techniques, going to writer meetings and still somehow find time to update the blog. Oh, and then living the everyday life that always manages to throw a wrench in best laid plans. Is there ever an end to the insanity? I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the muse runs and hides too delicate to suffer the abuse of demands.

How does one get past all the demands, all the expectations and all the things that need to happen to make it as a writer and still be able to stay connected to the muse? I think there are several things a person can do that include prioritizing, organizing, and learning techniques that makes the process of writing easier to accomplish. But there is also a basic element that should be the driving force of a creative writer that keeps the fire lit and the muse strong and healthy. It is the magic of creativity.

It’s the magic of possibilities and endless ideas. It’s the magic of “what if” and “what about this.” It is a way to cope with an out of control life and bring some sort of peace to a soul in turmoil. It’s the ability to create a world we can control and understand. It’s about giving our fears a face and being brave enough to discover the darkest corners of our hearts. It’s about great joys and painful sorrows. It’s about being ourselves and becoming more than we are. It’s about studying the human condition and hoping to make a great discovery about ourselves in the process. It’s the magic of creating something from nothing and taking one idea to create a great master piece.

Do you believe in magic? I do. The magic that lies deep within. If a person should dig deep enough, it can be tapped into, but often it is easy to become bogged down with the “I need to do this” “I can’t do that” “I’m expected to do that,” which stifles the ability to tap into the magic until it’s forgotten that the magic existed in the first place.

The next time the muse disappears leaving you in a puddle of despair remember the magic with. Connect to it, open up to receive it and dig beneath the layers to become steeped in it. Ask yourself “what if” and let the mind discover the possibilities. Don’t be afraid to open new doors. Most of all embrace your flaws and accept them for what they are then find away to work with them instead of against them. If inspiration refuses to come, then take a leap off the cliff of doubt and get it back. Catch the wisps of ideas and let your imagination know no bounds. Are you banging your head against the wall in search of your muse? Stop making yourself a bloody mess and rediscover the magic within.

Need ideas on how to tap into the magic of creativity? Check out The Missing Muse Part 2: Rediscovering the Magic.