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5 Important Questions That Will Help You Find The Story You Were Born To Write

Read and loved this. Tells you what to consider when you strip down your writing to it’s very heart.

Sandra Chmara Editing & Writing

Want to kill your chances of a writing career? Write inauthentically. Write generic dreck that anyone in the literate world could duplicate. Draw from a shallow pool teeming with small ideas. You may think that really memorable stories are pulled from the air, the same air you breathe, but they aren’t. They come from the very core of a writer’s being. Do yours?

So what’s the difference between writing stories and putting in writing the stories you were born to tell?

And remember, you are not trying to compete with Tolstoi or Tom Clancy. Your greatest competition comes from you – yesterday, ten years ago, or a minute ago. You are the bar you must surpass. Every day.

Here’s a way to find out what you already have inside you. Don’t worry about all the stories you ever want to write. Scrap everything you’ve already written. Just think…

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Don’t be flugelhorned! Catering to your niche

2013 Mardi Gras: Krewe of Mid-City Mardi Gras parade

Don’t go quietly into the brass section. Fight!

The husband and I have always enjoyed many varied interests. While gaming seems to get the most attention the truth is that we are both creative types at heart. He loves music, photography, and all manner of woodworking. I like to make characters out of different mediums and dabble in drawing. We keep busy and up until now I’ve never seen a downside to having multiple talents to draw from. Until I learned about flugelhorning.

Context; I was talking to a co-worker the other day. She was a bit distraught that she was being passed from department to department since she was capable of helping in multiple places, while other people who only had one particular skill set got to stay put and focus on their primary job. She told me it reminded her of being in band and volunteering to learn the flugelhorn. She said that she basically got stuck always doing the flugelhorn parts since everyone else had the good sense to just stick to the trumpet.

This story set off flashing lights in my brain, a sure sign that I was about to have an epiphany of sorts (“epiphany” “epilepsy”, you get the idea). See, until now I had always considered my ability to take on multiple tasks to be an asset. In all the jobs I’ve had I’d always though it useful to know, not only my duties, but also how to perform the tasks of others so I could always be counted on to jump in and help out in a pinch.  Now I realized that I had flugelhorned myself.

Now, the linguists in the audience are probably throwing up their hands in frustration by what they incorrectly perceive as me  trying to make unnecessary words a part of the common vernacular. Why not just use “shoehorned”? Doesn’t that mean relatively the same as what I’m trying to say? Not at all, and here’s why;

shoe·horn  (sho̅o̅′hôrn′) – To squeeze into or as if into an insufficient space,to force into a limited or tight space.

When you shoehorn something you force it into someplace where it doesn’t quite fit. In a work place example this would be like taking the company accountant and putting him in charge of counting widgets because he’s good at math. Great, your widget count is going to be spot on for the next inventory, but that guy is going to notice at some point that he could be doing real math elsewhere. Nobody aspires to be a widget counter.

Conversely, flugelhorning someone is just as limiting, but far more deceptive. Let’s take our accountant and put him back in charge of accounts receivable and payable or whatever the hell it is accountants do with their fancy adding machines. Okay, good he’s doing accounting and he’s content. You know what? I bet he’d be good at doing the ordering for the company too, since he’s so good with the numbers and all. Excellent, now if only we had someone who could make sales calls. Hey, why not the accountant, he already knows what supplies we have in stock since he’s doing the ordering. How difficult would it be to have him selling as well? Eventually this poor bastard is doing the work of seven different people.

Woman-Wearing-Many-Hats

Dude, WTF?

 

Perhaps his company isn’t run by total jerks and they give him a little additional monetary incentive to now throw himself off a bridge. They are still saving loads of money on all the employees they don’t have to hire to help out. Meanwhile, our jack of all trades feels like he’s starting to get somewhere in the company since he’s wearing all the hats that have been flung his way. Eventually he works up the nerve to ask for a promotion, only to be told that that isn’t possible at the moment because they’d need to find 2-3 new employees to pick up the slack if he were to move to another position. Here he thought he was making himself more useful only to find out that he had flugelhorned himself into doing everything for relatively the same amount of pay as if he’d just done ‘only’ his job really well from the get-go.

So now that you are aware of the flugelhorning epidemic, how do you make yourself immune? By specializing your talents. Here’s the thing, people who do one very specific thing extremely well are rare and usually well paid. Anybody can have passable photoshop abilities, but someone who is actually talented at the program can charge a premium for their skills. In the same vein, doctors might expect to make some cash, but not as much as specialists in a particular medical field. This is why a neurosurgeon makes more than a general practitioner, specialization.

The more specialized and unique your skill set the more you can charge for it. If you can build scale replicas of famous cities that is awesome, if you can do it using grains of rice and unicorn tears, well guess which one is more valuable? The trick is to figure out what it is that you want to be most excellent at and focus on that like a man possessed. Then find the tiniest subset of that category and cater exclusively to that niche.

To be honest I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to follow my own advice here. I can absolutely get behind the idea that being flugelhorned is a real thing and if anyone would like to go ahead and send word to the Webster’s people about this, it would be most appreciated. Trouble is, the reason I have many hobbies and skills is because I like doing lots of different things. Still, at least insofar as my future career prospects are concerned, it might be time to figure out where my best abilities lie and throw everything I have behind them in the smallest niche possible.

Feline flugelhorning is still a viable option

Feline flugelhorning is still a viable option

 

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Dear Internet, let me tell you all the sordid details

typing

Back when I was a kid there was a TV show called, Doogie Howser M.D. For those of you young enough to have been spared this time in history it’s basically the story of how Barney from, How I Met Your Mother, was a kid doctor. He spent his days learning about life, love, and horrible diseases. At the end of every episode, Doogie would sit down at his trusty computer (with super hot DOS interface) and write up his thoughts about the day. Doogie made keeping a diary cool, even before the advent of the internet.

Seriously, daaaww

Seriously, daaaww

I bring this up only because I’ve come to the realization that this blog has basically become my own little (not at all) private journal. As such occasionally you guys are gonna be on the receiving end of me rambling inanely as I try to make sense of things. Apologies in advance, but if I just sat around talking to myself all day my family would have to have me committed. This is by far the cheaper option.

Currently I’m wrestling with the problem of finding fulfillment. See husband and I have both been feeling a bit unmotivated at our jobs as of late. This happens to everyone, you wake up one day, look around, and shudder in horror at the sheer mundaneness of your life. When we are children we dream of being artists and astronauts, then we grow up and sell office supplies and answer phones. It’s a depressing thing to realize that the life you always dreamed of having somehow got lost along the way to growing up and being able to pay your mortgage. The question I’m battling with now is whether to just come to terms with this or fight back.

There are countless inspirational quotes flooding the world about the importance of never giving up, of finding something that makes you happy and doing it for the rest of your life. These are warm, fuzzy thoughts, but how realistic is it to expect to find happiness while you are bogged down with a life of responsibilities? Husband secretly dreams of making a living with his woodworking. He’s very talented (seriously, check out the blog he just started), but he knows it’s just not feasible for our family for him to just up and quit his job and hope for the best. I wish I could tell him to just go for it, that we’d find a way to make it work, but since he’s the one who keeps up with our finances he knows better than to believe me.

I come here and lament to you guys about how I want to make a living with my writing, possibly doing some awesome nerd crafting on the side (seriously, I make damn cute things), but what are the odds of that ever actually happening for me? Probably far less if I’m so worried about failing that I can never beat back my own self-doubt long enough to try.

The thing is, I want us both to have the chance to do the things we love. We only get one shot at life (unless you’ve got an awesome religion that grants additional shots) so it’s only fair that we go all in and do whatever it takes to make it worthwhile.

We had tried a business once before, back while I was a stay-at-home mom. After two years we called it quits. It wasn’t really a failure, we did learn a lot during that time. I think given the chance we’d be able to skip most of the missteps we made the first time around. Now we’re both dreaming of trying something new and it’s daunting and scary which is the main reason I think we might actually be onto something. Great things don’t just come from accepting the status-quo. Mediocrity and safety don’t yield amazing results.

Sometimes I think I’ve been mislead and my occasional bouts of idealism are entirely unfounded. As children we are all taught that each one of us is a special little snowflake, capable of achieving anything our little hearts set out to do. As we grow up we find out that many doors were never open to us at all and most people don’t give even a token fuck for our happiness.

two roads

This is the crossroads I find myself at now. Looking down the road I’ve been traveling and wondering if I should just keep going to the end because I’ve already gone so far, I’m too old and tired, most importantly I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going. Hell, the other road could be a dead end for all I know. Yet still, I look back over my shoulder at where another road branches off from this one and I can’t help but wonder if I should double back and try again.

 

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Attention creative types, writing competition this way!

mystery_write-620x350-290x166Of the handful of people who follow my blog I’ve noticed a surplus of wildly brilliant creative types. You guys clearly have great taste so I thought I’d pass some info along for any aspiring short-story writers to jump on. Hofstra Law, with Professor Alafair Burke, and Mulholland Books is hosting a Mystery Writing Competition .  The contest is being judged by some high profile crime novelists and the first place winner will be published online and promoted by Mulholland for added exposure, not to mention a pretty sweet cash prize as well.

There are a few guidelines mentioned on the flyer; the main character must be a lawyer, stories should be unpublished works of less than 3,500 words, and the whole thing should be submitted in a double-spaced 12 point font that Microsoft Word won’t object to opening.

I’m on the fence about trying to come up with something for this, I have plenty of work I’m already neglecting, but since there is a clear deadline I might give it a shot if inspiration strikes. Ah yes, the deadline is May 1st to email your story. Like I said, cash prize and some well earned online kudos sound pretty sweet. Let me know if you’re planning to send something in so I can shout encouragement while I contemplate my own procrastination.

Hit the link here to check out the competition flyer and submission guidelines.  The game is on!

 

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Sneaking away from my comfort zone

pillow fort

I’ll be in my pillow fort if you need me.

I don’t take kindly to change. Even positive changes can put me on edge because I’m a firm believer that it’s better to stick with the enemy you know than to go looking for new trouble. This line of thinking is more than a little problematic the older I get because more and more I’m catching myself standing in the way of my own success. There are loads of blogs and scientific articles out there that tout the benefits of stepping out of your personal comfort zone. Basically, there aren’t many downsides as it is seen as the key to achieving greatness. While we all inevitably fall into the low-stress, reduced anxiety lifestyle our comfort zones provide, nobody does amazing things without pushing some boundaries.

The husband and I were talking this morning about how things continue to change throughout your life. There is never a point where you’ve finally got it all sorted out and can just sit back and ride out the rest in peace with no regrets. Or maybe you can, but so far as either of us could tell we’re not the types to give up wondering “what if” about things. It’s not that we aren’t happy with all the great things we do have, it’s just that we still wonder if we could continue to improve our lot in life. Humankind wouldn’t have made many advancements through the years if we’d all just given up and decided to be content with the way things already were.

Lately I’ve been feeling more than a bit stuck with a bad case of complacency. Things aren’t really bad for me, but they aren’t how I’d like them to be and it’s been a good while since I felt like I was making any progress. I’ve found myself trapped in my comfort zone and, like a toppled pillow fort, what was meant to be calming and safe is slowly beginning to suffocate me.  It has taken some pushing and prodding a maybe even a few tears, but I think I’m ready to start testing the waters out there in the big bad world.

Hello, opportunities?

Hello, opportunities?

Some people, braver or more stupid than myself, might launch into this challenge headfirst with huge life altering events. That’s all fine and good, god speed to them. Being the type of person who gets angry and disoriented by surprises I prefer to slowly feel my way into new experiences. I’ve been putting out some feelers lately, just seeing what opportunities might exist for someone like me that weren’t open before. I’m still planning to keep the focus on furthering my writing, but by allowing myself to consider new possibilities I may have found a way to make things easier on myself by eliminating some of the problems inherent with comfort.

It’s not a perfect plan, and there is every chance that it could blow up in my face before things even get off the ground, but at this point that is a risk I’m willing to take. I’ve realized the only thing that scares me more than change is being stuck with no chance of change.

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Hold your critique while I get my knife ready

criticism_media_cycle

Would-be writers are told time and time again to develop a thick skin in preparation for the numerous rejections they will have to endure before they achieve any iota of success. For me, this is probably the highest bar to entry that I’ve come across in pursuit of my ambitions. I don’t have many talents of which I’m unflinchingly confidant. Hell, even things I know I do well still require ridiculous amounts of fine tuning before I’m willing to send them off into the world. Being told that writing was not something I had a talent for would be devastating.

I am not a person acclimated to taking criticism well. There could be any number of perfectly reasonable explanations for this, but as the internet isn’t large enough to hold a comprehensive listing of all my various neurosis, let’s just say I have a tendency to take criticism as a personal affront to my competence. Having my notes edited for spelling errors when I was a kid probably didn’t help.

This is not to say that I consider myself above reproach or think that I’m always right, quite the opposite. I live in a constant state of alertness under the belief that people are watching my every move and just waiting to swoop in and point out my shortcomings. In some regards I’ve developed a stream of coping mechanisms to deal with this sort of rejection, but only with bigger overarching issues.

For example, if I spell a word wrong or abuse the oxford comma and someone calls me out on it I have no problem correcting the problem and moving on. These are mistakes I expect to make because typos happen and commas are basically my indentured slaves. I am far less accepting of subjective criticism when it serves no purpose outside of making the person who pointed it out feel proud for having caught me in a perceived mistake.

Certainly it is better to have one person bring my attention to an error than to have that same error go unmentioned until it is publicly displayed for everyone to see. Nobody wants to be wrong, but when people use their opinion on how I should be doing things as a basis for calling me out I tend to get stabby.

job warning

I should probably warn you that if you’re looking for a blog about dealing with criticism and learning from it you may as well look elsewhere. I know that the term ‘constructive criticism’ was coined for a reason, but I don’t expect to discover any short cuts for accepting it with grace and poise by the end of this article. This is a rant, and as such its only purpose is to serve as an outlet for those of us who are tired of the nitpicking nags who would see us held down whenever we try to raise ourselves up.

Now, I understand that criticism is a necessary evil. Nobody is perfect and when you attempt something there is a good chance you’re going to make some mistakes. This is good, you need to make mistakes so you can learn not to make them in the future. If they aren’t mistakes you can find on your own then you need someone else to give you feedback and let you know how to improve. I get all that, I really do, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to immediately roll over and accept that your way is correct. This is doubly true if I don’t agree with your assessment.

Great art comes from knowing when to break the rules and sometimes doing something differently than convention calls for is the best way to get your point across. Often when I solicit feedback on my writing I’m not looking for a rundown of my errors, I’m looking for affirmation that I managed to get my point across. Errors can be easily fixed, but flawed execution or faulty reasoning is a far greater offense in my eyes. Not everyone makes this distinction, probably because writing isn’t always considered an art form.

There are no museums (that I know of) for masterfully executed sentences or well developed characters and plots. It’s not because these things don’t exist, but because those who do not write don’t understand how difficult they are to achieve. I know that at some point I’m going to have to suck it up and send my manuscript out into the cold harsh world of editors and agents. I know that this will be a difficult time and that I will have to learn to adapt to accept criticism of my work. I’m not looking forward to it, but I get why this bar to entry exists.

I just hope that when this time comes I can find a way to remind myself that criticism is intrinsic to having created something. That even though it might be hard to accept the opinions of others in regards to my work, I have already proven myself just by creating that which did not exist before me. The nagging nitpickers can just go ahead and suck on that.

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Fat people don’t get to be lazy at the gym

gymrunner1

I’ve got a bit of a confession to make, I really like food. I mean I really enjoy the mass consumption of yummy things. Sadly this has lead to a problem I like to refer to as Flesh Abundance Tumidity, or as it is more commonly known, FAT.

The trouble is that people have quite a few unflattering assumptions about those of us suffering from FAT. Primary among those is that we are lazy and have zero self-control. To be fair these labels can be just as true of  slender people, but at some point in our evolution we just began to equate size with our measure of health. It’s utter bullshit, but that’s where we are at.

At several points throughout my adult life I’ve decided to do something about my ampleness, with mixed results. I’ve come to accept that I’m never gonna be one of the naturally slim or fit people the media tells me are the ideal and I’m fine with that, really stop asking. Recently I broke down and signed up for a gym membership.

For those of you uninitiated, gyms can be a little intimidating for newbies. It’s a bit like being a lone gazelle lost in the Serengeti. You know there is a place for you, but you aren’t sure where it is or how to get there. You kinda just have to wander around and hope you don’t put yourself into a dangerous situation. There are plenty of lions roaming about ready to eat you alive if you break some unwritten rule of gym etiquette, so it’s best to start slow and feel your way around, at least that’s how I’ve approached it.

I started out on the treadmill and slowly made my way to the elliptical. Occasionally, I’d peek around to make sure there were no predators looming about before sneaking over to try out a weight machine or two. Lions tend to frequent the free weights. In the end I always return to the safety of the cardio area.

I’m luckier than some because I am not the only member of the FAT club who attends my particular gym. This keeps me from feeling completely out of place in a land of beautiful athletic people. Often as I’m working away, sweating through my clothes as my legs slowly go numb, I notice another card carrying FAT member venture in and climb on a treadmill.

Free cake when you get a new member to join!

Free cake when you get a new member to join!

‘Oh good,’ I think, ‘someone else is FAT, it’s not just me. We can be FAT together.’

My feeling of solidarity lasts just long enough for her to set down her big gulp and pull out a magazine to read as she leisurely strolls in place on the treadmill. Suddenly any kinship I had felt for this person is dashed upon the rocks as I watch her make seemingly no effort whatsoever to be uncomfortable enough to garner results. I now feel like I have to work twice as hard to make up for this member of my clan who clearly embodies all the negative things people think about our ilk.

There are things we as FAT people tell ourselves and each other to make peace with our place in the world. Things like, “any effort is better than making no effort,” and “don’t push yourself too hard.” Friends I am here to tell you, we are doing ourselves a disservice when we do this. Going to the gym or starting an exercise program is a great first step, but that’s all it is, one step in the long arduous trek towards physical fitness and social acceptance. When you’re FAT you start this trek at a keen disadvantage already since everyone expects you to fail and console yourself with a quart of deep-fried pudding.

Is this fair? Hell no, but since when does fair enter into the equation? People are a judgy lot and when you’re killing yourself to meet a goal it’s comforting to see someone who you are clearly beating in your quest. It doesn’t matter that they probably have very different goals and challenges, you just need to convince yourself that there is a reason you had to turn down the cookies that Betty brought to the office on Tuesday. You have to trade cookies for sweat stinging your eyes because you don’t want to end up like that poor slob who thinks watching Duck Dynasty while he crawls along at a snails pace is fooling anyone. (Watching Duck Dynasty is a universally horrible idea for anyone, just saying.)

As FAT people we owe it to ourselves and our fellow pudgy-inclined brethren to put forth extra effort when we go to the gym. We don’t have the luxury of being lazy, we gave that up when we decided that we did in fact need a second helping. It’s not enough just to show up and go through the motions, you have to make up for all the preconceived notions of the fit and healthy.  I’m not bashing, I reach just as fast for another slice of pizza as the next fat girl, but you can bet I make myself pay for it when I lace up my gym shoes.  I don’t foresee myself giving up the Nuetella anytime soon, so it’s likely that my gym trips will continue to be an uphill battle, but you can be damn sure that when I’m there I’m going to give every appearance of someone who thinks physical fitness is within their grasp.

For those preparing their torches and pitchforks, calm yourselves. I know that everyone’s body is different and that people have different levels of fitness. I’m firmly mixed into that lot, but if you are going to go to the gym and have convinced yourself that you are working to improve your life than it would be nice if you actually, you know, worked.

Hold on, I have to update my status so everyone knows I'm at the gym.

Hold on, I have to update my status so everyone knows I’m at the gym.

I like to imagine that when people see me in there awkwardly panting and staggering through my workout they think, “yeah, she’s big, but at least she’s trying to do something about it.” This puts my mind somewhat at ease with the fact that I haven’t seen any automatic and fantastic results thus far. When I see another chubby person come in and not even  break a sweat while they exercise all I can think is that they have ruined all the progress I’ve made in convincing people that we don’t all fit the stereotype.

I don’t enjoy the fact that my mind is wired to judge people this way. I’d like to be all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to my fellow man, and especially towards the groups which have enough external pressures to conform to societal norms. Wouldn’t that be a better place to be? Sure, but I’d be there alone so I’ve pretty much scrapped that idea. New idea, if you’re not willing to make your particular marginalized group look better at least do the rest of us a favor and don’t make us look worse.

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Trying to please everyone except yourself sucks

My thoughts are deep, like a really deep thing.

My thoughts are deep, like a really deep thing.

I’ve had entirely too much introspective thinking time as of late. It hasn’t actually been all bad, it has given me a chance to refocus on my goals and actually define what my real goals are verses what I thought they should be. Overall, introspective thinking generally rocks, but occasionally it also leads to the realization that the things you’ve been placing so much importance on aren’t things you actually care about. They are just the things you’ve convinced yourself you’re supposed to care about.

An example of mine is my so-called “career”.  I say so-called because it’s really just a job, but once you get to a certain age it feels like you’ve failed at life if you don’t start calling it a career. So I have a career, not one I picked, rather it was the only place that would hire me after I’d been a stay-at-home mom for four years which is the career equivalent of dropping off the face of the earth. I like my job well enough, but for quite a while I thought I needed to keep pushing to make a good job into a fulfilling career. This isn’t really fair to the job, it’s just there to pay the bills and get me out of the house five days a week so I don’t go stir crazy. I shouldn’t hang all my hopes and dreams of being successful on something I just stumbled into, but that’s pretty much what I’d been doing.

It be easy to put the blame for this on society for giving me an unrealistic understanding of success. According to the media, success is all about power suites and luxury vacations. If you don’t have those things then clearly you have failed at life. So, what happens when you realize that you don’t actually want those things? It’s a bit disorienting to say the least.

Here I am in my thirties, still scrambling to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Of course I’ve always wanted to be an author, but that has always been more of a dream than a goal and always secondary to somehow finding success at a “real” job. Lately I’ve realized what a shitty thing that is to do to myself. Clearly it’s time to get my priorities in line and stop trying to force myself into someone else’s definition of success. If I want to be an author than I need to focus my efforts on writing instead of on pursuing goals I never meant to set for myself.

Doing business like a boss!

Doing business like a boss!

This isn’t about making grand life changing decisions, it’s more about making small every-day choices that let me find my own way to feel rewarded. It’s about letting go of the idea that the only way to make something of myself is to try to fit into a narrowly defined mould of what other people find successful. Sure I might have to skip out on the business trips and the flashy pant suites of female executives, but I never wanted that stuff anyway so I think I’ll find a way to cope.

The first step is letting myself treat my job like what it really is, a day job that pays my bills. Of course I’ll still need to put forth the effort to get my work done, but I don’t have to waste any more time worrying about how I can force prosperity out of it. I can use that time to focus on the things I really want to achieve and actually get somewhere with them. Time management!

The same is true of this blog in a way. I tend to over analyze any topics until I’ve watered down my opinion enough to keep from offending all but the most conservative whiners in the audience. Trouble with this is that at some point I end up not saying anything at all. Luckily it has come to my attention that I am extremely unlikely to take up a sudden interest in holding public office or indeed any high-profile position where my musings might come back to bite me in the ass. As such, I can now use colorful expletives and share my demented thoughts without fear of repercussion at some indeterminate time in the future. A time when I can only assume sentient robots have used the internet to enslave humanity, assuming the zombie apocalypse fails to wipe us out. 

What I’m actually saying here is that I’m reconciling myself with the fact that I’m not going to be able to make everyone happy. Frankly, trying to keep everything I put out into the world tame enough to pass for mentally stable is already exhausting. So, as an experiment, I’m going to try going at this without all the self-imposed filters. There is a small chance that if I just get out of my own way and focus on the things that really matter to me I could at least make myself happy.  I’m pretty sure there is an overpaid lifecoach somewhere who would say that in itself was the true measure of success. Of course they’d probably be saying this from the deck of their yacht.

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The Muse and other whimsical notions

© User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

© User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with something witty or insightful to share with the five people who seem to be following this blog (shout-out to my peeps!), but nothing has been coming to me. That pretty much sums up how much writing I’ve been doing in general as I keep expecting that I’ll just suddenly feel inspired to sit down and tap out something meaningful.

It seems like at some point in my life I’d fallen under the mistaken assumption that being creative was simply an attribute ingrained in the human psyche from which all great ideas, as well as a few not so great ideas that end with consequences and community service, flow. As I got older I learned that artists believe in something called a muse which dictates the ebb and flow of their art. As a writer I presumed that I was also gifted with such a thing. Whether it was intended to be a sort of tiny magical creature that whispered in my ear or something as unintelligible as the soul, well that was a matter for greater minds than mine to worry over.

The point is that for the longest time I believed that creativity was something that should be cultivated and cherished, but that could not be

Notice the utter lack of writing getting done.

Notice the utter lack of writing getting done.

fully controlled. The very act of being creative has it’s own process for crying out loud. Imagine that, a whole process just to get your mind to function in a way that creates ideas so that you can then go on to implement them. How are you meant to get anything done if you go about it that way? Imagine if you had to do daily rote tasks in this manner. Constantly having false starts because you needed to make sure you were going about doing the dishes in a specific way that would yield the best results. In the end you’d only see the soap spots anyway.

There are some people who even actively encourage this ridiculous idea that by forcing creativity you destroy that which you are trying to create. I’ve heard fellow writers bemoan how their muse wasn’t cooperating and therefore they couldn’t get anything done. Hell, I’ve been one of those writers, hence the name of the my blog. “Don’t try to force creativity,” they insist as they adjust their beret to a more artsy angle. “Let it come to you.”

The trouble with this is that when I finally get the time to sit down and create my mind has a tendency to blank out for a bit. I like to think it gets distracted by all the potential for great ideas floating around and sort of just short circuits. In the ultimate self ‘flipping of the bird’ when I don’t have a moment to spare on actually exploring an idea and writing it out my mind feels compelled to be overly helpful and supply me with endless amounts of topics and hilarious sentences which never see the light of day beyond the darkened corners of my mind. 

So therein lies my problem. Do I hope to catch creativity unawares, like an outrageously accented hunter in the savanna. Or, do I go the practical route and blindly smack at my keyboard with my fingered meat-bricks until something vaguely resembling writing comes out? For the longest time I would try to sneak up on myself during bouts of creative thinking and quickly jot everything down. Sometimes this worked and I added ideas and story snippets to my writing journal which promptly left my mind as soon as they were on the page. The chance of having another amazing burst of insight into a project I wasn’t actively working on was pretty slim. Sometimes I’d actually begin a project, only to run out of steam and give up on it halfway through (halfway could be generous in most cases, but you get the idea).

I’ve been doing some thinking on the subject. Primarily this came about because of my complete lack of focus when tasked with taking my writing seriously this year. The most common bit of writing advice I see being banded around is that you should write everyday. This makes sense, one does not become a writer by thinking or reading about writing. Only through actually writing can you get anywhere. Logically that makes sense, but some part of me balked at the idea of being “forced” to write, to create, when my mind wasn’t fully on-board with the idea. My reasoning was simple, how can I write without knowing what I want to write about? Sadly, I’ve come to realize this is just another excuse, another lie I tell myself to make it okay to settle for not achieving what I want to do.

According to the internet, Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”

Suddenly all those ludicrous notions about being a slave to some imaginary brain imp’s evil bidding seem stupid. Why should I play second fiddle to some erratic part of my mind that doesn’t appreciate deadlines and paychecks? I’m living in the real world and in the real world writers write things so that people can read them. We don’t hide clever little snippets of ideas in a notebook that nobody else will ever see, we have the internet. We pound keys and throw our ideas at the web and see what sticks. Once that is done we keep doing it until someone gives us a book to put all those words in. That’s the sort of writer I want to be, not the capricious artist who figures they have plenty of time to become a savant in their field. Maybe that works for some folks, more power to them, but I’m going to stick with just writing.