Tempting the Muse
By Jackie Morse Kessler
When I first starting writing a million years ago, there was no such thing as deadline pressure. I wrote because I had a story I wanted to tell. There were days when the words came easily, and there were days when the only words that came were the four-letter sort, usually in a mutter, as I’d stare at the blank page. But that was okay—if the Muse was busy, then I just tried writing another day. I wasn’t on a schedule. I had time. If I wasn’t inspired, I simply didn’t write.
And then, something crazy happened once I sold my novels: the writing went from being just about the craft to being about getting the craft done on time. Now it wasn’t just about me wanting to tell a story—I had to do it on someone else’s schedule. I suddenly had deadline pressure. And that’s when I discovered there’s a world of difference between writing for the sheer enjoyment of writing and writing when it’s part of a business. For one thing, now I had to juggle Real Life (which was already challenging, between the full-time day job, the family that included two young kids, and a geriatric cat with separation issues) with writing on deadline—goodbye, spare time!
For another thing, not being inspired suddenly wasn’t an excuse. I was on deadline. I had a job. The story had to come, whether or not the words were easy. And that meant I had to learn how to tempt the Muse, even on days when she’d rather be eating chocolate and catching reruns of Supernatural.
Here are some things that have helped me get the creative juices flowing—they are just as applicable for writing novels as they are for writing school papers:
1. Take a shower. Sounds crazy, I know, but there’s something about standing under steaming hot running water that gets the ideas started. Maybe it’s because the only way I can write any shower-started ideas is with soap on the walls.
2. Play music. Sometimes, getting in the right frame of mind is all about the atmosphere—and there’s nothing like music for creating the atmosphere. Linkin Park was very influential for me when I was writing LOSS—there’s one scene in the book that was inspired by the song “New Divide.” (And no, that’s not secretly a plug for the second Transformers movie, I promise. But if Michael Bay wanted to make LOSS into a movie, I wouldn’t say no.)
3. Skip ahead. I’m a linear writer, so the notion of skipping a scene or chapter that just isn’t working makes my eye twitch. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with fast forwarding—as long as you don’t hand the book over to your editor with big bold letters where chapter eight should be, claiming [INSERT WITTY CHAPTER HERE].
4. Power through. When skipping ahead just isn’t an option—see the above, re eye twitches—grab some chocolate, shut the door, and bang the scene out. Let yourself make mistakes. It doesn’t have to be gorgeous in the first draft—just get the basic ideas down. You can fix it later.
5. Walk away… Sometimes, we have to get some air. Preferably, while eating chocolate. Stepping away from the keyboard could be exactly what’s needed to get ideas unstuck. There have been plenty of times that I’d be in the middle of doing dishes when I suddenly know how to fix a chapter. (And despite what my Loving Husband believes, that’s not me just trying to get out of doing the dishes. Cough. Really.)
6. …and then come back to it. We all need a little time to clear our heads, but that’s not the same thing as giving up. What looks impossible late at night could suddenly be very manageable first thing in the morning. Or, for night owls, vice-versa.
When writing on deadline, we don’t have the luxury of the Muse playing the diva card. But we can still tempt the Muse back to work—ideally, with lots of chocolate.
LOSS by Jackie Morse Kessler comes out March 20, 2012!
GIVEAWAY: One lucky commenter below will win a small cover poster of LOSS—and will be entered in the grand prize drawing! The grand prize winner will receive signed copies of HUNGER, RAGE, and LOSS—and will get to name a character in BREATH, the fourth book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series. The grand prize winner will be picked on Sunday, April 1, 2012. No foolin’.
So if you want to be entered in the giveaway, please comment with your name and email address. I (Kaitlin) will choose a random winner on March 20th (LOSS's release date!) and I will email you for your mailing address to pass along to Jackie so she can mail your poster and enter you for the (awesome) grand prize.
Thanks for joining us today, Jackie!