Sunday, July 22, 2007

Strategies to Move Your Muse

One of the worst enemies of an aspiring writer is the ability to get himself or herself started writing. I’m not talk about writer’s block. This isn’t a situation where you’re having a lack of ideas. You’re problem is a lack of time and motivation. Or, perhaps you have the motivation, and finding time is the issue. Whatever the case, every aspiring writer, and some of those who are published, can always use some tips on getting themselves organized, prepared, and working on their writing.

This inability to set a structured schedule that allows me to produce my ideas is one of the issues that I have. I’m a married man; I have one son and a daughter whose arrival we are expecting any day now…in fact, I could actually say any hour now. On top of all this I work a full-time job that takes a lot of my time and energy to excel at. (No, I may not have to pour so much energy into a “day job”. But I believe if you want to excel at your writing, you should strive for excellence in all areas of your life.) The opposition I face with my writing is trying to find the time to write and not take away so much sleep that I am ineffective in my various aspirations.

Another problem that writer’s often face is one that can occur for writers even when they are able to find the time to work. This is the dilemma of moving your muse. Again, I’m not talking writer’s block, per say. Sometimes a writer must be in the mood to write. Though not necessary to produce writing taking action to put yourself in the mood for the material you are working on can often improve the quality of your end product.

I have taken the time to compile a number of the suggestions that I have run across. Some of these are from books or magazines I’ve read, some from the internet, some from friends and peers I’ve talked with. I am sharing these with you in hopes that they will help to move your muse. I’ve place these in no particular order, so browse a bit and see if you can’t find something that appeals to you.

  • Set productive goals for yourself. One example is setting a number of words or pages that you expect to accomplish each day. You must then make the time to reach your goal. Or you might decide to work for two hours every day. Once the end of those two hours is reached you power down your computer or put down your pencil until tomorrow. Or you might strive for a chapter each week, putting in the time when and where you can. One thing to remember with goal setting is that you want to be realistic. Don’t try to show off to yourself or others by setting goals that are out of your reach. I’m not trying to hold anyone back, but if you set reasonable, achievable goals for yourself you’ll find that gradually you’ve written that book.
  • Schedule a writing period in your day where writing takes priority of everything, save emergencies.
  • If you must limit your time due to family or a need for sleep try setting an alarm. Place it somewhere in your office where you won’t be watching it all the time, then eliminate other clocks and time pieces that might be distracting. This eliminates counting each minute or second, and keeps you from overworking, losing needed sleep, or creating tension in your family.
  • Accountability. Form a group of friends or peers, in person or on the internet, who can keep after you when your realistic goals aren’t being met. It helps, of course, when this group consists of other writers with similar aspirations, but it’s not a necessity.
  • Keep a word count in sight. This can help keep you motivated and will also let others know how you’re progressing so they can offer support and encouragement.
  • Outlining. This is a technique that works for some, but not for all.
  • Eliminate outside distractions for a period of time in order to devote more time to your writing. This can consist of a week, two weeks, a month, or longer. Items that you might consider eliminating your exposure to include television, radio, internet, email, computer games, or radio.
  • Write in a stimulating environment. This could include your neighborhood coffee shop, a café, or even your nearest library branch. Another option would be to decorate your office or writing space with items that put you in the right mindset for writing.
  • Take a walk. Whether you live in the city or out in the country somewhere, walking can be a great stimulant. Not only do you absorb ideas from your environment, but you have quiet time to let that latest idea mull about in your head. For those who don’t enjoy walking, ride a bike or drive your car. I lean away from the car idea, though, because walking and biking are great ways for a writer to get some exercise.
  • Find an outdoor hobby that allows you time to think. This can include the aforementioned walking or bike riding. Other ideas are hiking in the countryside or mountains, swimming, or kayaking. Check out some of these hobbies, or others that I haven’t mentioned. Again, they give you a great opportunity to empty your mind of distractions and just let the ideas simmer for awhile.
  • Pick up a book to read. This can be something that is similar to what you are writing, but does not have to be. It’s entirely possible that the latest suspense novel by one of your favorite authors holds an idea that could turn your fantasy story into something really exciting.
  • If you write for a younger crowd you can garner ideas by telling improvisational stories to your kids. Try coming up with a story idea that they would find interesting and add to that each night. Then, after the kids are asleep, write down as much as you can remember. You never know what the result might be. In fact, this is how Tolkien’s The Hobbit came to be.
  • Find some music that helps put you in the right mood for your current plot progression. I find that instrumental soundtracks to movies are some of the best stimulants. You can pick similar scenes to the one you are working on and play the background music that was used in that scene. Or just put the disc in your CD player and see what images start to take shape.
  • Be prepared for your writing at any time. Do this by carrying a small notepad or digital recorder with you everywhere.
  • Keep a journal.
  • NaNoWrimo. National Novel Writing Month takes place in November and is a great way for aspiring writers to dive into that novel. You will be struggling to boot that word count at the same time as aspiring novelists all over the world. Though I have not participated myself, I have followed the progress of the NaNoWrimo over the last couple of years and I believe it would be a wonderful stimulant for the person who can dedicate a lot of time to their writing during that month. Learn more about it at

There are a lot more helpful hints out there than what I have shared with you here. I encourage you to check out some of the writing books at your local bookstore or library. Also, do some hunting on the internet; check out some of the blogs that other aspiring writers are posting to. Learning from other peoples’ experience can be a great advantage when you want to avoid some of the potential pitfalls out there.

I will leave you with an anger management tip for writers. Save often.

Good luck and good writing.

No comments: