Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Elusive Muse

It is truly amazing how inspiration strikes, sweeps through like a hurricane, then leaves just a quickly. I tend to be the kind of person that tries to jump onto that fast moving E-Train of inspirational muse and ride it out until I've squeezed every last drop of essence from it.

Unfortunately, I struggle with those in-between times when the inspirational muse is nowhere to be found.  But it is this time when a productive writer gets the job done.

I currently have a project where I rode the wave of inspiration through an outline and twenty-six thousand words into a first draft. But then my muse left me with a broken heart and five unfinished chapters. Sure, I keep busy by writing poetry, short stories, other projects, but it seems, as time slips by, I've found every excuse not to finish the project at hand.

Now, I must fall back on some basic truths and rules to get back in the fight - so to speak. Here are some basic rules and concepts I follow that others might find useful when trying to stay productive on a project.

1. Set a daily writing goal, and do your best to stick to it. If one wants their writing to be taken seriously, they must take their writing seriously. Treat your writing project like a job - either part or full-time. That means one might need to schedule time specifically for writing. I personally like to write my stories using many small chapters, so I try to set my daily writing goal at one chapter or a number of scenes within a chapter.

2. Think seriously about your writing project. The reason I call my unfinished stories "projects" is to give them a sense of realism and priority in my own mind. Keep your "project" on your mind even when not writing by thinking about scenes, characters, motivations, or plot twists when you go to bed at night. It's a great way to relax and fall into sleep. Who knows, with practice one can even learn to bring projects into their dreams so the mind can perform double-duty.

3. When all else fails - doodle. I use a novel writing software program that makes it easy to file away character bios, locations, notes, keep a timeline of events, etcetera. When I get stuck in a project or feel I'm losing interest, I simply pull up a character card and work on the biography, add to character goals, write out dialogue I might like to use or thing the character discovers about themselves or others. One can do this with main characters or minor characters. This is also a great way to capture changes one would like to consider in a story without stopping to rewrite, or ponder things like hair color changes for characters or the environment surrounding the story, ie. weather.

I Hope this humble advise helps those who write. Please post your ideas in the comments section. What helps you capture that muse? What helps you get into the writing mood? Is is your writing place, music, silence, or just plain old dogged determination?