#IWSG: Dear Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  Are you a writer?  Do you feel insecure about your writing?  Then this is the support group for you.  Click here to learn more!

Dear Muse,

2021 turned out to be one of the absolute worst years of my life.  I will not go so far as to call it my worst year ever, but I will say that it was a close second.

We didn’t get much writing done, you and I, in the past year.  Plans got derailed.  Opportunities were missed.  Financially speaking, our writing/illustrating business survived, but it will be a real challenge getting back to where we were a year ago.

Couldn’t be helped.  Under the circumstances, things could have ended up being a whole lot worse.  I want to thank you, dear muse, for being patient with me, for biding your time while I struggled, and for waiting until the situation improved.  I needed that time to deal with this past year’s problems, and I needed time to heal from this year’s problems as well.

As I already said, 2021 was only the second worst year of my life.  I’m sure you still remember the first.  I’m also sure you remember what happened next: how our writing and our art flourished, how the year that followed my #1 worst year became one of my absolute creative best!  Nobody asks for hardship, but hardship has a way of preparing us for change and for growth.  After all the problems of 2021, I am eager to see what we can accomplish in 2022.

So in the year to come, dear muse, I’m asking you for a gift: the gift of words.  All the words!  Surprise me—no, shock me with your wildest ideas.  Break the molds I’m used to for all my stories, knock me out of the comfortable grooves I’ve settled into over the years.  Test my limits.  Challenge me.  Make me write things I never imagined I’d write.

This past year was awful for me, but that’s behind me now (I think).  So muse, bring me all the words!  I’m ready!

Forever yours,
Your Writer.

#IWSG: Three Things Writing is Like, and One Thing It’s Not

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writers Support Group!  Are you a writer?  Do you feel insecure about your writing?  Then this is the support group for you.  Click here to learn more!

Sometimes I get into conversations with people who are not writers.  It can be hard to explain to non-writers what writing is like.  They tend to vastly underestimate (or vastly overestimate) how much of a struggle writing can be.  Also, a few of them seem to assume that heavy drinking must somehow be involved.

Today, I’d like to share a few of the analogies I use to help explain both the joys and hardships of writing to my non-writer friends.

Writing is like exercise:

I am not exactly a health nut, but exercise is still an important part of my routine, and I do, in fact, enjoy it.  That being said, when it’s time to exercise, I’m rarely enthusiastic about getting started.  Getting started is always the hardest part.  However, once I do get going, exercise gets easier, and by the time I’m finished I usually feel proud of myself for the hard work I’ve done.  Writing is the same.

Also, after a hard workout, your body needs some time to rest.  Your mind also needs time to rest after a long, hard day of writing.

Writing is like NASA:

Specifically, writing is like NASA when it comes to setting schedules and deadlines.  Everything seems to take longer than expected.  Just ask the people working on J.W.S.T.  That thing was supposed to launch like fourteen years ago!  Almost every NASA mission is, in one way or another, attempting to do something different and new, something that has never been done before.  Unanticipated problems and setbacks are bound to happen.  Writing is much the same in that respect.

Also, writing is like NASA in the sense that it involves big goals and bigger dreams.  Not everyone sees the value in those goals or dreams, and some people will tell you (whether you asked for their opinion or not) that you should focus on more down-to-earth concerns instead.

Writing is like meditation:

I have to admit that I’m not as religious or spiritual as I once was (for reasons that are not relevant to this blog post).  Even so, when I say that I need to get myself into a meditative state in order to write, most people seem to understand what I mean.  I treat my personal “writing sanctuary” as if it were a sacred place, and my writing process is highly ritualized.  This helps me clear my mind of distractions and let go of material concerns, so that I can give my story my undivided attention while I write.

And if it sometimes feels as if a supernatural power—a muse of some kind, if you will—is helping me do my writing… well, that fits nicely into the meditation analogy as well.

Depending on the circumstances, I may try using one analogy for one person, and a different analogy for somebody else.  Not everyone meditates.  Not everyone cares about NASA.  And as for exercise, the statement “I enjoy exercise” can be more perplexing to some people than “I’m a writer.”  But usually, at least one of these analogies will communicate to a non-writer what writing is like for me.

Lastly, I want to share one analogy for writing that absolutely does not work.

Writing is like eating cookies:

It’s not.  No, it really isn’t.  Sometimes writing is easy, sometimes it’s hard.  That’s not true about eating cookies.  Nobody has ever said, “I feel like I should spend more time eating cookies, but I’m just so gosh-darn tired right now.  Maybe I’ll eat some cookies tomorrow, if I have the energy for it.”

So what analogies would you use to explain writing to non-writers?  And are there any analogies you can think of (like my cookie analogy) that absolutely do not work?

#IWSG: Scriptophobia and Graphophobia

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re an insecure writer in need of some support, then guess what!  This is the group for you!  Click here to learn more.

I recently learned that there is, in fact, a scientific term for the fear of writing.  Actually, there are two.  Scriptophobia is the fear of writing in public.  Graphophobia is the fear of writing in general.

Honestly, I’m not surprised that these terms exist.  I’ve never understood how some writers can do their writing in the middle of a coffee shop.  I’d feel so self-conscious.  Does that make me scriptophobic?

And graphophobia?  For me, that’s something that comes and goes.  It’s a feeling that I’ve traditionally labeled as writer’s block, but graphophobia (now that I know about that word) seems like a more apt term.  It really is fear that stops me from writing.  Fear that I’ll disappoint myself.  Fear that I’ll disappoint my readers.  Fear that I’m wasting time writing something that no one will ever want to read.

I said that fear stops me from writing, but it would be more accurate to say fear hinders me from starting to write.  Just starting is always the hardest part.  But once I’ve done a few sentences, or a few paragraphs, or maybe a few pages, the words come quickly and easily, and I’m left wondering what I was afraid of in the first place.

Learning new vocabulary is the best kind of learning, in my opinion.  Knowing the right terms and the right names for things makes those things so much easier to conceptualize within one’s own brain, and it also makes it easier to communicate one’s thoughts, feelings, and questions about those things with other people.  That’s why I’m so glad to have discovered the words scriptophobia and graphophobia.  These are going to be very useful terms for me.  I hope you’ll find them useful, too.

#IWSG: No, Writing Cannot Wait, Actually

Hello, friends, and welcome to September’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re a writer and if you’re feeling insecure about your writing life, then this is the support group for you!  Click here to learn more!

I keep track of how many words I write each week.  I’ve been doing this for years.  And so I can say, definitively, that in 2021 my writing productivity has been cut in half.

I know, I know.  Word counts are not the only things that matter.  But still, it’s distressing to see those numbers drop.  And I know exactly why it happened: I’ve been too distracted.  I’ve had a tough time staying focused on my creative work.  Certain real life problems keep popping up and demanding my attention.  Can I actually do anything about these problems?  No.  But they keep demanding my attention anyway.

It doesn’t help that certain people keep telling me how important these real life problems are.  It doesn’t help that people keep saying I should make decisions about this or that I should prioritize that.  Sure, my writing is important, these people keep saying, but they also keep saying that my writing can wait.  It doesn’t help that this “writing can wait” logic makes a certain kind of sense, even to me.

But this “writing can wait” mentality is leading me astray.  As I already said, I can’t actually do anything about the problems I currently have.  And even if that weren’t the case, even if I could do something, putting my writing on hold until all the problems in my life are solved will mean that I’ll never get any writing done again.

So my challenge now is to stop stressing over things that are beyond my control and to start listening to my muse again rather than those other people in my life.

#IWSG: Taking the World Very Seriously

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re an insecure writer, then this is the support group for you!  Click here to learn more.

Once upon a time, a woman who takes the world very seriously told me that I ought to take the world very seriously too.  If I were to follow the example this woman set, then it seems that “taking the world very seriously” means sitting on the couch all day getting angry about whatever they’re saying on the news.

I’d rather not live like that, so instead I’m going to keep living my life “frivolously.”  For me, that means driving out to weird places in the middle of the night so I can see the stars.  It means reading lots of books about space, and watching lots of movies set in space, and sometimes it means annoying my friends with an endless stream of space facts.

For me, living frivolously also means going out on adventures: seeing strange new sights, eating strange new foods, and talking to strange new people.  Sometimes these strange new experiences turn out to be disasters.  Sometimes they don’t, and even the disasters can turn into fun stories later.

And speaking of stories, that brings me to the most important thing.  My allegedly frivolous lifestyle means that I am going to keep writing, writing, writing.  And I’m going to keep drawing as well.

Because the stuff they say on the news is not totally wrong.  There’s an awful lot of ugliness in the world right now.  But the correct response to all that ugliness is not, in my opinion, to sit there dwelling about it or yelling about it.  The correct response to ugliness is to make something beautiful.

It doesn’t matter what you make, specifically.  A poem or song.  A story.  A drawing or painting or sculpture.  It could even be a blog post.  Like I said, it doesn’t matter what it is, specifically, just so long as it’s beautiful.

Maybe all of that is frivolous.  So be it.  I’ll keep living my life frivolously.  How about you?

#IWSG: The Humbling of a Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re a writer and if you feel insecure, then this is the support group for you.  Click here to learn more!

I’m a sciency kind of person, and I think about the world in a sciency kind of way.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in magic.  I happen to know that a magical fairy person visits me while I’m writing and helps me with my writing process.

For today’s IWSG meeting, I’d like to turn the floor over to that magical fairy person, a.k.a. my muse.  She has something to say, and perhaps it’s something your muse would like to hear.

* * *

My fellow muses, I almost lost my writer.  This is a difficult thing to talk about, and a painful thing to talk about, but I cannot not talk about it.  My writer almost gave up on writing.

He was under too much stress.  He was dealing with too much external pressure.  At one point, he said he felt like life was squeezing all the joy and happiness out of him.  And every time I whispered in his ear “You should be writing,” I was making the problem worse.

Many muses would make the same mistake, I think.  After all, what could be better for a writer than writing?  But sometimes we forget just how much stress the so-called “real world” can cause.  I thought writing would alleviate some of that stress, but my writer felt like I was just making the stress worse, and he resented me for it.  And the more I tried to force the issue, the more I tried to assert dominance over my writer, the worse things got.

Deep down inside, my writer knew I was right.  Deep down, he knew that giving up on writing would not make things any better.  He’d learned this lesson about himself before, many times over; but he needed some time and some space to learn it again.

So I let my writer stop writing for a while.  I let him work on other things, and I let him experiment with other interests and passions.  Eventually, he came back to writing.  It was inevitable that he would, of course.  But in the end, he came back because he wanted to, not because I told him he needed to, and that makes a tremendous difference.

Obviously my writer’s recent stress is not unique.  The human world is an unsettling and unsafe place right now, for a multitude of reasons.  So if your writer is having a rough time writing, be patient.  Give your writer the time and space he or she needs.  They’ll come back when they’re ready, and we muses will be waiting.

#IWSG: A Brave New Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re a writer and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

In the last few weeks, I have not been writing.  Not as much as I want to, nor as much as I believe I need to.  I have my theories about why this is the case.  I could tell you about those theories, but I don’t want to.  At this point, I’m tired of talking about what’s wrong.  I’m tired of examining and reexamining the situation from all these different perspectives.  I just want to get back to writing.

And that’s the whole point of the writing recovery plan, which I introduced in last month’s IWSG post.  Part of that plan involved shopping: stocking up on writing supplies, as well as art supplies and a few other creative necessities.  And part of the plan involved rereading some of my favorite books and rewatching some of my favorite movies: the kinds of books and movies that made me want to be a writer in the first place.

Well, my shopping is done, and I’ve gone through most of my rereading/rewatching list.  But the writing?  The writing still hasn’t come back, not in the way I was hoping.  It seems that there’s still one more thing I need to do.  Something I did not think of in my original recovery plan.

Regular readers of this blog have met my muse before.  She’s sort of a recurring character in my posts, especially in these IWSG posts.  I also keep a picture of her in my personal writing sanctuary, as a reminder.  I’ve been drawing my muse basically the same way for a long time: medium blue wings, a matching blue dress, high-heel boots.  But now I think it’s time to update her look.

So going forward, to the extent that there’s any sort of canon regarding my muse, this will be her canonical look:

Also going forward, this will be the picture sitting in my writing sanctuary, as a reminder.  And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m told that it is time to write.

#IWSG: The Writing Recovery Plan

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re an insecure writer in need of some support, then this is the group for you.  Click here to learn more!

In my last post, I told you that I’m too stubborn to quit writing.  Stubbornness is a trait that runs in my family, for better or worse.  Stubbornness can be a virtue or a vice, depending on what you choose to be stubborn about.  So while I may be too stubborn to quit writing, I have realized in the last few weeks that I need to stop being stubborn about the way my writing process works.

You see, I’ve always been obsessed with plans and goals.  I like to plan out my day, my week, my year—my whole life, even—in meticulous detail.  But about eight weeks ago, there was a family emergency, and for the past eight weeks now, all my plans have fallen apart: especially my writing plans.

So if I’m ever going to get back to my old self, I need a new plan.  I call it a Writing Recovery Plan.  Given that it took me eight weeks to get to the point I’m at now, I figure it’ll take about eight weeks to get myself back to the point where I was.  So what will I spend the next eight weeks doing?  Well, I don’t know.  The plan is, essentially, to have no plan.

Maybe I’ll start writing Tomorrow News Network again, or maybe I’ll start something entirely new.  Maybe I’ll write a bunch of sciency stuff for the blog, or maybe I’ll blog about something completely different.  I don’t know.  And for the next eight weeks, I’m not going to worry about it.  I’ll simply let the muse point me in whatever direction she likes and see where that leads me.

At the end of my eight weeks, I’ll have to make some decisions.  I will never quit writing, but there are other aspects of my writing life and writing career that might need to change.  But that is not something I want to talk about or think about today.  Today, I simply want to tell you that I’m back, officially.  I’ll be blogging again on a weekly basis, covering topics that are… to be determined.

So next time on Planet Pailly, I’ll have something to say about something.

#IWSG: Too Stubborn to Quit Writing

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re a writer, and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing life, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

Last month, there was a family emergency.  What happened was… well, wait.  How personal do I want to get in this blog post?

Bad stuff happened.  Like, really bad stuff.  And I’ve been dealing with the fallout as best I can ever since.  Finding time to write has been… difficult.  If there was ever going to be a moment when I would give up on my writing dreams, this was the moment.

But there’s one thing that’s true about my whole family: we are stubborn.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.  For example, it is not a good thing to be stubborn about medical stuff.  Seriously, if you’re feeling sick, do not try “toughing it out.”  Go see a doctor before you end up putting yourself in the hecking hospital!

Oh, whoops… (quickly turns the T.M.I. dial back down to zero).

Anyway, at this point the situation with my family is more or less under control.  Important decisions still need to be made, certain things cannot go back to the way they were before, et cetera, et cetera.  But the situation is more or less under control.  My plan now is to ease myself, slowly and gradually, back into my writing routine.  Because while life may have postponed my writing for a month, I am too stubborn to give up on my writing dreams entirely.

P.S.: And if you’re a stubborn person too, good!  I commend you for your stubbornness, just so long as you’re being stubborn about the right things.

#IWSG: Hey, Listen!

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!  If you’re a writer and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing life, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

I’ve written a lot of these IWSG posts over the years, and many of those posts have featured my muse: the magical fairy person who nags me when I’m not doing my writing.  I tend to describe my muse in a certain way, and I tend to depict her a certain way in my art.  This has led to a few comments comparing my muse to a certain fairy companion from a certain video game.

Today, I’d like to confirm for you all that, yes, the idea for my muse was partially inspired by Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  Now I realize there are not a lot of Navi fans out there.  A lot of people found her super annoying, and she’s often listed among the most hated video game characters of all time.

But, gosh darn it, I liked her.  When I was a kid playing Ocarina of Time for the first time, I really liked the idea that I had this magical fairy person tagging along with me on my adventures.  Even if Navi didn’t always have the most useful advice to offer, it was comforting to know that I didn’t have to fight all those giant spiders and lizard monsters and creepy plant things alone.  And I guess, in this ongoing adventure of being a writer, the same idea still gives me comfort.

Now if only the act of writing could be as easy in real life as it would have been in the game.