I probably shouldn’t tell you this because I don’t “have a handle on it” yet. Not at all.
In fact, it sort of embarrasses me.
I spend a lot of my non-writing hours, worrying over my writing. Throughout the day, as I wash the dishes, sit in the school’s carpool line, or work at my paying gig, my mind whirls:
What should my character do next? What guest post should I pitch to MEGA-BLOG THAT EVERYONE READS? How do I squeeze in another hour to work on my book tomorrow?
Even when I’m not writing, I’m still writing.
Some of you do it, too, because you’ve told me, but we just might be hurting rather than helping ourselves.
We don’t have our minds and our behinds in the same place.
I’ve always battled this. I’m not a worry wart by nature. I don’t do it in other areas of my life. I don’t have ADD, but my thoughts can still go a bazillion different directions at once.
However, I also have a laser focus on two, important topics: WRITING and PUBLISHING.
I’m not talking about putting in the hours. Doing the hard work of cranking out the words.
I write everyday. I’ve come a LONG way baby.
No, my Epiphany came recently during a podcast by New York Times Bestselling author, Steven Pressfield.
For those of you who don’t know Steven, he’s an author, novelist, and screenwriter. His books include The Legend of Bagger Vance, and the two must-reads at Mudpie Writing: The War of Art, and Do the Work.
Steven and two colleagues were discussing their writing routines and he tossed out this comment in passing: “When the (writing) day is over for me, the office is closed. I just turn my brain off completely. I never stew about anything overnight, or worry about it. If I have ideas, if they pop into my head, I’ll put them on a tape recorder, but once the office is closed, it’s closed. I let the Muse work on it.”
That blew me away! I feel like I’d just learned that up is down, and down is up.
NOT stew about my writing?! NOT worry about plot or pacing? NOT wring my hands over Mudpie Writing?!
If you want to hear the ten-minute podcast, the link doesn’t go straight there, but it’s Our Morning Routines, posted on Monday, March 24, 2014.
Steven Pressfield believes we each have a Muse. To him, she’s a cross between several Greek goddesses. His post, You, As The Muse Sees You, tells all about her, but here’s an overview:
“Each day the Muse makes her rounds (in an open-top space vehicle, kind of a cross between the Jetsons and the old Flash Gordon serials), carrying her bag full of ideas. She’s a bit like St. Nick, only instead of giving gifts to children she gives ideas to artists. To Beethoven she gives da-da-da-dum, to Stephen King she offers Carrie. When the Muse gets to your place, she looks down from her little rocket ship. Are you in the studio? Before the easel? At the keyboard?
You’re not? Okay. The goddess cuts you some slack for this truant day. She’ll check back tomorrow. What? You’re not on the job then either? Or the day after that? You’re disappointing her. How will she punish you? She will simply withhold her favors.”
Now, it’s not all bad news. Steven believes the Muses blesses us, as well:
“Instead, let’s imagine the Muse cruising past your place on Monday. There you are, hard at work. Same thing Tuesday. Wednesday, too. Ah, now you have made the goddess smile! She likes your style. By the way, the Muse doesn’t hold it against you if you can only spare her an hour a day, or even if you miss days because you have to work to feed your family. The goddess can read your mind. She recognizes your honorable intentions. As long as you are showing her the proper respect, she’ll reward you. How? She gives you the breakthrough for Act Two. The idea pops into your head while you’re in the shower, or on the subway, or walking your Doberman.”
As I said before, I AM doing the work. Over the years, I’ve completed four full novels, one screenplay and countless short stories. I’ve earned publishing credits in several magazines and am an award-winning copywriter and short-story author.
I’m also guilty of Muse Abuse.
According to Steven Pressfield, I never give my Muse a break. Or worse, I’m not trusting her to show back up tomorrow to help me with whatever creative dilemma bothering me today.
Thinking about this, I saw that my writing worries don’t accomplish much. I gave up worrying in other parts of my life long ago, so why not this?
I don’t feel good enough. I’m still unpublished. My literary agent left the biz before submitting my book for publication. I’m still not where I want to be in my writing career.
What’s the deal?
It’s mental gymnastics is what it is. A coping mechanism to deal with my writing struggles.
It’s a waste of time, too.
Plus, I’m missing out life. Beautiful life. I’m losing precious moments with family and friends. Not to mention how I leave my Muse battered and bruised.
No wonder we both drop into bed exhausted every night.
Stop Muse Abuse
So, how do we change?
I’m not really sure. That thought makes my stomach twist because I’ve done it for so long, but I must. I’m making myself crazy. I’m my own worst enemy. I need to have more faith in my Muse.
This is still a new concept to me, but here are two ideas:
1. Learn to Close the Office Door – I realized that most of my writing solutions come when I’m not doing anything writing-related: folding laundry, driving my car, waking from a dream. I need to give my mind more grace and space to tackle my writing woes tomorrow. Easier said than done.
2. Keep My Mind and Behind in the Same Place – I started really paying attention to my thoughts and caught myself countless times a day falling back into old habits. Whenever my thoughts begin churning over writing, I gently remind myself, “The office door is closed. My Muse will tackle that tomorrow.”
Sometimes, I can stop myself — nudge me back to the here and now. Other times I can’t. At least, I’m trying to be nicer to my Muse.
Right? Practice makes progress.
Can you “close the office door” when you’re not writing? If so, how? Please tell me about it in the comments. If you like this post, please share with friends.
Pick up your FREE copy today of the mystery, The Moon Rises at Dawn (SkipJack Publishing). Read, enjoy, repeat.