Don’t rely on a flaky muse

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Is it writer’s block every time you don’t get to your keyboard and write? It’s very romantic to suggest that as a writer you have a capricious muse who either visits you or does not, but I don’t believe that it is a rule that artists have to be whimsically flaky. I can tell you that I don’t get writer’s block. Just about every moment I have something that I can write down, and when I don’t do it it’s not a lack of inspiration, it’s a lack of motivation. I’m just lazy and at that moment it’s easier to watch TV or play video games. I suspect drawing this distinction may help some writers to be more reliable in their craft.

If you have a lack of motivation or of confidence, or sure, even of creativity, what can you do? Here are some thoughts to help.

Lack of Motivation

Create a schedule. Block off time for writing. If you have demands in your house that cannot be convinced to stay quiet for an hour, go somewhere else. In general, don’t count on your willpower to get you writing at any available moment, or your muse to visit you when the time is right. If you have a set time every week or every day where your job is to write – that will help make sure it happens. More information on this can be found in Deep Work by Cal Newport.

Lack of Confidence

Do you feel like you’re just going to waste your time writing down all the wrong stuff? Do you feel like you’re just bad? Find a critique group to give you a clearer sense of how people are responding to your work. No matter what they say, remember that everyone starts as a bad writer, and the way they become good writers is practice. In the moment, consider just freewriting. Remember that until it’s published, you can change your work as much as you want. If you really want to, you can just delete the whole document. There’s no consequence for writing the wrong thing except learning better how to write the right thing next time.

Lack of Creativity

Do something else. No, I don’t mean give up writing. I mean go do anything else. Do something that gets you out of your comfort zone. Creativity comes when unusual circumstances require new thinking. I recently had a harrowing experience learning to dance. That gave me multiple ideas for my novel, some of which helped me to clarify my goals for the novel. Immediately after getting home from the dance hall I felt compelled to write two-thousand words in an entirely new first chapter, and I think I’ll still be writing out the ideas I got from that one experience for some time to come.

Don’t assign agency to your creativity. It’s not out of your hands. You don’t need drugs, you don’t need magic. You just need to write a lot and get out of your comfort zone once in a while. If you’re confident you’re a terrible writer, just write terribly until you write well.

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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