IWSG: Shiny New Idea Syndrome

December 5, 2018

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

As I said in a recent post, I have a lot on my mind right now.  Good stuff.  Writing-related stuff. But still, it’s hard to focus on actual writing when I’m so distracted by writing-related ideas.

So for today’s episode of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I going to turn the floor over to my muse.  She has something she’d like to say, and maybe it’s something your muse would like to hear.

* * *

Hello, I’m James’s imaginary friend, also known as his muse. It’s totally normal for adults to have imaginary friends, especially when those adults are writers.

It seems that I have created a problem for myself and my writer.  I recently brought him a new idea.  What is this idea?  That’s not important right now.  It’s a new idea, and it’s a really good idea (if I do say so myself), and that’s all that matters right now.

That was not the reaction I was hoping for. It’s one thing for a writer to be excited about a new idea, but quite another for a writer to get overexcited. Overexcited writers are a danger to themselves, their muses, and every single character in their story worlds.

As a muse, obviously you have to bring your writer great ideas, the best ideas you can find lurking in the depths of the subconscious. I do want my writer to use this new idea.  I wouldn’t have brought it to him otherwise.  But it’s a tricky thing, getting my writer to keep things in perspective, making sure he does not neglect all his other writerly duties.

So, my fellow muses, what do you do to keep your writers in line when a shiny new idea gets them a little too excited?

IWSG: Why Writing Isn’t Easy

November 7, 2018

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

You could call this a writing exercise, or you could say it’s a way of flexing the imagination’s muscles.  Every once in a while, I stop whatever I’m doing and ask my muse a question.  I may even write the question down, to make sure she understands it clearly. Then I wait and try to imagine how my muse might answer.  Sometimes, surprising flashes of inspiration come.

If I ask a story related question, my muse tends to get back to me pretty quickly.  Muses are good at figuring out story stuff.  But sometimes I ask bigger questions—real life questions. With those sorts of questions, it takes my muse a little longer to respond.  Sometimes a whole lot longer.

Recently, I asked my muse: “If I was born to be a writer, why is writing so hard for me?”  You see, I’ve always believed that God made me to be a writer, or at least to be a creative person of some kind.  While my feelings about organized religion have changed a lot in recent years, that core belief is still there: writing is my purpose in life.

And yet writing is so absurdly difficult!  Why does it have to be that way?  Just motivating myself to pick up a pen and get started each morning is such a struggle.  I have to wonder why I keep forcing myself to do it.  I feel like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a mountain only to watch it roll all the way back to the bottom at the end of the day.

Yes, I may be making progress in the sense that I’m getting words down on paper.  Yes, my current WIP is creeping ever closer to completion.  But it doesn’t matter.  Each night, that boulder (which represents my motivation to write) rolls back down the mountain, and each morning my motivation starts at zero once again.

My muse spent a long time pondering my question.  I suspect she may have fluttered off, leaving me alone for a time while she consulted with the High Council of Muses, or maybe she embarked on some other epic quest, fighting dragons and seeking out forbidden muse knowledge.  Days went by.  It was over a week before she came back.  And then she said to me: “Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.”

And of course my muse is right.  There are many things that have come easily in my life; I don’t value those things the way I value the things I had to fight for, or struggle for, or sacrifice for.  Writing is hard work.  It will always be hard work.  And that’s okay because if it weren’t hard work, it would not feel so rewarding when I get my writing done.

IWSG: My Best Coping Mechanism

October 3, 2018

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

I don’t usually answer the optional IWSG question each month, but this month’s question sort of relates to what I wanted to write about anyway:

How do major life events affect your writing?  Has writing ever helped you through something?

I can answer these questions fairly easily, or at least I could until recently.

  • In 1993, I lost my father. Books helped me cope with that, especially Frank Herbert’s Dune.  This is the reason why I decided to become a writer.
  • In 2008, I discovered that my girlfriend, the only woman I’ve ever truly loved, was cheating on me. So I wrote a cheesy Sci-Fi love story, and that helped me cope.
  • For well over a decade now, I’ve worked in the news business. It’s a high stress job that often exposes me to some of the worst that humanity has to offer. So I’ve been writing a series of short stories and novellas about a journalist who travels through time. That helps me cope.

Throughout my life, writing has always been my best coping mechanism.  But there have been times when I’ve been too stressed, too traumatized, or too emotionally drained to write.  So what do you do when your best coping mechanism fails?

2018 has been an all-around troublesome year for me. Minor and major life events seem to keep piling up.  Witnessing a murder back in July was obviously the worst, but even before that happened I was struggling.  I spent much of this year dealing with financial problems, health concerns, and a work-related issue that took an agonizingly long time to resolve.

The latest crisis has been family drama.  I have a couple relatives who do not have the foggiest idea what’s wrong with me but who apparently know exactly what I should be doing to fix it.  Admittedly, this is not the worst thing that’s happened to me this year. But still, it is so irritating.

Through this whole pileup of problems, my writing has been inconsistent.  Some days, some weeks, I go into a writing frenzy unlike anything I’ve experienced in the past.  But other times, I feel so worn out that I can’t write anything at all. This is understandable, I think, but it’s also a problem because when I have so much stuff to cope with, I really need my #1 best coping mechanism to work.

IWSG: True Muses Never Leave

September 5, 2018

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

For last month’s IWSG, I wrote about a traumatic experience I recently went through.  It was a difficult thing to write about, and I’m sure it was a difficult thing to read as well.  Thank you to all of you who did read that post and left such kind comments. I realize this is an odd thing to say, but the love and support I received from “strangers” on the Internet meant a lot to me.

I still have some raw emotions about what happened, but I’ve gotten back to writing.  To be honest, I got back to it a whole lot sooner than I expected. I’m not sure how to explain why that happened, so I’ve asked someone else to write a post explaining it for me.  She’s written IWSG posts for me before.  At this point, I’m sure many of you know her well.  She’s the magical fairy person who helps me write: my muse.

My writer has been plagued by a secret fear. This has been going on for years now, but he’s been too afraid to talk about it or write about it.  He’s even tried to conceal certain dark thoughts from me (in case you weren’t aware, muses have mind reading powers). But of course I still sensed this fear stirring in the depths of the subconscious.

So what is this secret fear?  Here’s an easy answer: the fear that I would leave, that I might never come back, that maybe I’d go be a muse for someone else—some new writer who’s more disciplined and talented than the writer I already have. But like all easy answers, this answer is not the full truth.

What really frightened my writer was the thought that maybe, deep down inside, he didn’t really want me around in the first place, that maybe he didn’t really want to be a writer at all, and that maybe he’d be happier doing something else with his life, something that didn’t involve a muse like me constantly pestering him to do his writing.  No matter how much my writer insisted that he wanted to keep writing, there was always that nagging fear that whispered: “you’re wrong, you want to give up.”

Then came the traumatic events that occurred a little over a month ago.  My writer’s been through some painful experiences before—the loss of a parent, a nasty break up—but nothing compares to witnessing a murder.  In the aftermath of what happened, my writer lashed out at me and at writing in general.  He told me to go away.  He told me to never come back because the things I made him write about—death, violence, various other atrocities—suddenly hit way too close to home.

Of course I didn’t leave.  True muses never leave.  It’s not in our nature.  I guess my writer didn’t know that, but he knows it now.  And I didn’t have to wait long before my writer picked up the pen again and asked for my forgiveness (which was easily given).

To my surprise, my writer chose to dive straight back into the story we’d been working on before all this happened—one of those violence and destruction stories.  But that’s what he wanted to do, and with a renewed sense of urgency too, because the casual disregard for human life that would lead one person to kill another—my writer has some things to say about that, things that he only knows how to express in one way: through fiction.

And that’s the secret truth about writers: they may think they can give up on writing, until they actually try to do it. But writers need to write as badly as other humans need to eat or breathe.  It’s in their nature.  I guess my writer didn’t know that either, but he knows it now.

So much for that secret fear.

IWSG: Survivor’s Guilt

August 1, 2018

This is not going to be a happy post. I’m not sure if this is really the kind of thing the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is meant to address. But I feel I need to do this in order for my healing process to begin.

In the stories I write, characters die.  Sometimes people are massacred in great numbers.  Other times, characters get killed off individually for dramatic effect. It’s all done in service to the plot.

I’ve heard writers joke about how often they “murder” characters in their stories.  I’ve joked about it myself.  I don’t think I’ll ever find those kinds of jokes funny again.  Not after the experience I had late last week.

It would be inappropriate to discuss the details of what happened in a blog post, so I’ll only say this much: a gun was involved. At one point, I thought I was going to die.  One person did die. I knew the victim, and I knew the shooter, though I can’t say I knew either of them particularly well.

Friends tell me I’m handling all this remarkably well. But of course I’m not.  Not at all.  I’m never going to forget the things I saw and heard.  I’ll never forget the fear I felt.  My healing process is going to be long and arduous.  I know part of that process will involve returning to my writing routine, because writing is so central to who I am.

Except given the subject matter I tend to write about, how the hell am I supposed to go back to doing that?  Right now, I can’t bring myself to look at my manuscript. I can’t even think about it without reliving what I’ve just been through.  Nor can I work on something new and different—something fun and lighthearted—without constantly reminding myself that there’s this thing I’m trying really hard to avoid thinking about.

But I can write this blog post.  Maybe that’s enough for now.  At the very least, I hope it’s a place for my own healing process to start.

IWSG: Should Writers Believe in Muses?

July 4, 2018

I know a lot of writers who don’t believe in muses. Sometimes I don’t believe either. I’m a scientifically minded guy. The idea that little magical fairy people are assigned to us writers at birth, that they’re supposed to teach us and guide us through our writing journeys, occasionally providing little flashes of inspiration… none of that sounds particularly scientific.

And that’s okay.  If you’re a writer, you don’t have to believe in muses.  The important thing is that no matter what, your muse still believes in you.

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a monthly blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our writerly worries and offer each other advice and encouragement.  To learn more about IWSG and to see a list of participating blogs, click here.

IWSG: When Science Gets in the Way…

June 6, 2018

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

The month of May brought me one of the highest highs I’ve ever experienced: I finished a certain long anticipated manuscript.  May also brought me one of my lowest lows.  Two close friends agreed to look over the manuscript, and… well, let’s just say they didn’t think it was very good.

After a heartbreaking week and a half of going over my friends’ feedback, I’ve realized that I made two fundamental mistakes.

  • First off, I’d been playing with a new writing style. It was very flowery. Very fancy.  I thought it sounded awesome, until I tried to read it out loud.
  • And secondly, I tried to cram as much science into the story as I could. I thought I was making my Sci-Fi universe more believable, but all I was doing was adding info dumps.  Very flowery info dumps.

When I started this blog, part of my intention was to force myself to do the kind of research that I, as an aspiring science fiction author, thought I ought to be doing.  But in one of my earliest posts, or maybe it was an early tweet, I wrote that I’d never let a scientific fact get in the way of a good story.

This blog really has served its purpose.  I’ve done a lot of research over the last eight years.  Can you blame me for wanting to show off everything I’ve learned?  But, of course, I let all that science get in the way of good storytelling, and now I need to fix it.

For a start, I’m breaking up some of those long, flowery sentences.  And as for the science, I’m not going to remove it entirely, because I still believe good science is crucial for good science fiction.  But maybe I don’t need to spend so much time explaining everything.

So now, back to writing.  Or rather re-writing.