#IWSG: We’ll Fly When We’re Ready

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop created by Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosted this month by Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise – Fundy Blue.  To sign up for IWSG and to learn more about this amazingly supportive group, click here!

In my last two blog posts, I wrote about the Indian space program and the American space program.  Both have suffered recent delays and setbacks.  Both are still moving forward with their space exploration plans, despite those setbacks.  Whenever I read about real life space programs, I’m always struck by the parallels between space exploration and writing.

Whether we’re talking about space or writing, we’re talking about big ambitions.  Big aspirations.  We’re talking about a lot of hard work (but the fun kind of hard work, the exciting kind of hard work).  We’re also talking about constant setbacks and delays, with certain financial realities looming over us at all times.

A couple years ago, I published my first novella-length Sci-Fi story on Amazon Kindle.  My plan was to follow up, quickly, with a sequel.  Around the same time, I also launched a store on RedBubble so I could sell prints of some of my art.  And then… setbacks.  Delays.  Real life problems.  It was like trying to plug fuel leaks on the Artemis 1 rocket.  As soon as I fixed the problem here, I’d discover liquid hydrogen was spraying all over the place over there.

I can report that 2022 has been a better year for me.  Slowly—very slowly—my writing and my art have gotten back on track.  I’ve been blogging more.  I’m making progress on my next Sci-Fi novella.  Also, I’ve started uploading new art to my RedBubble store for the first time in two years.  But writing takes time.  Art takes time.  As much as I want to rush forward with all my creative dreams, I need to be patient with myself.

After NASA scrubbed the launch of Artemis 1 not once but twice last week, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson had this to say: “We’ll fly when we’re ready.”  Right now, as I get back into the rhythm of writing and illustrating, that’s my mantra.  My muse and I… we’ll fly when we’re ready.

#IWSG: The Spice of Life

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop created by Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosted this month by Kim Elliott, Melissa Maygrove, Chemist Ken, Lee Lowery, and Nancy Gideon.  To learn more about this amazingly supportive group, click here!

“Do one thing and do it well.”  I’ve heard this aphorism over and over again throughout my life, and there’s a certain common sense simplicity to it that I find appealing.  Whenever life gets complicated and I feel like I’m being pulled in too many directions at once, I really wish I could pick just one thing to do—I wish I could be permitted to focus all my time and energy on just one thing, without any distractions, so that I could have a chance to do that one thing exceptionally well.

Last month, I participated in the A to Z Challenge.  For anyone who doesn’t know, the A to Z Challenge is a month-long blogging event.  Participants post twenty-six blog posts, one for each successive letter of the alphabet.  All of my posts were about humanity’s future in outer space, or perhaps I should say humanity’s potential future in outer space.  Our species has so much potential!  But I do realize there’s no guarantee that we’ll live up to our potential, though.

In order to ensure my success with the challenge, I canceled any other plans I’d made in the month of April.  I used up a bunch of vacation days at my job.  I made sure I got my taxes done super early this year.  I put a few of my other creative projects on hold, temporarily.  I engineered my whole schedule so that I would able to do just this one thing: blogging.  Did I do it well?  That’s a subjective thing, of course, but I feel that I did the best I possibly could on most of my posts.  And it felt good.

However, there came a point when I started to miss working on my other creative projects.  Being able to “do one thing and do it well” feels nice, but to really thrive, I need variety in my creative life.  My muse was kind enough to hold back on new ideas during the A to Z Challenge.  Now, however, there’s a backlog of ideas that my muse would like me to work on—and I am eager to get to work on those new ideas!

“Do one thing and do it well” can be good advice, for a short time.  When life gets complicated, sometimes we need to stop and have the simplicity of doing one and only one thing for a while.  But when I think about my lifelong goals, when I think about my own future as a writer/artist/blogger, there’s a different aphorism that I’d rather live by: “Variety is the spice of life.”

#IWSG: How to Talk Business with Your 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?  If so, then this is the support group for you!  Click here to learn more!

So I promised myself that I wouldn’t talk business here on the blog, but today I’m going to talk business here on the blog.  You see, I’m in the process of developing a new business plan for both my writing and my art.  Last weekend, I had a meeting with my editor.  I’ve also been doing a bit of research about S.E.O.  I’m starting to put together an outline of goals and strategies.  I feel good about all this stuff I’m doing.  I feel confident.  My muse, on the other hand, is getting very nervous.

As you know, muses come from a land of pure imagination, and (for obvious reasons) nobody needs money in a land of pure imagination.  My muse has heard of money before, but she doesn’t fully understand what money is or how it works.  She’s never used it for anything except as a plot device.

And when it comes to businesses and business plans, my muse has only the vaguest of notions about what all that means (I only have vague notions about it, too, but I’m learning).  Don’t be wasteful, don’t be inefficient, do be competitive and aggressive, do cut costs anywhere and everywhere you can, do ramp up production and increase your sales, always deliver value to your customers (whatever that means), never forget about the bottom line—that’s what businesses do, right?  But that sort of super strategic, super economical mindset—that is totally anathema to how muses operate.

The creative process is inherently inefficient.  It’s inherently messy, chaotic, and unpredictable.  A muse and her writer/artist must feel free to make mistakes; they must be able to experiment and take creative risks; they must allow themselves to waste a whole bunch of time and energy on ideas that almost certainly will not work out.

The last two years were something of a wake up call for me.  I really do need to take the business side of writing and art more seriously.  But as I go about putting together my new business plan, I know I must also keep my muse happy.  In fact, I’ve decided that keeping my muse happy should be job #1 in this new business plan of mine.  Even if it means missing the occasional deadline, even if it results in earning less money, even if it does not seem (at first) to be good for the bottom line, allowances must be made for the “wastefulness” and “inefficiency” of the creative process, because if I cannot make those allowances, well… then maybe this is not the right “business” for me after all.

#IWSG: Never Say This to Your 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!

So the other day, I got into an argument with my muse.  I said some things that I regret, and she called me some names that I, quite frankly, deserved.  The whole debacle started because of the Internet.

Almost every day, almost every single time I go on the Internet, even just for a few minutes, I am bombarded with bad news.  Certain headlines pique my interest.  I feel this sense of morbid curiosity.  I start clicking things.  I start reading comment threads.  And slowly, gradually, all that bad news transforms into worse news, until everything becomes the absolute worst news ever.

I was in the midst of this downward bad news spiral when my muse reminded me (kindly but firmly) that I’d promised to do some writing today.  And I refused.  After reading all that bad news, doing my writing no longer seemed important.  How can I do my writing when the world is in so much trouble?  How can I do something as silly as writing when all of human civilization is burning down around me?  “My writing doesn’t matter!” I exclaimed.  “Not at a time like this!”

That, by the way, is the wrong thing to say to your muse.

As I already mentioned, I proceeded to say some things I regret, and my muse proceeded to call me some names that I deserved.  But after we had some time to calm down, my muse and I had a long talk, and my muse said to me: “So bad stuff is happening in the world right now.  Okay.  Do you know how to fix that stuff?  Do you know how to make all the bad things stop or how to make all the bad people go away?  Hmm?  I didn’t think so.  But you are a writer, and you are an artist.  You may not be able to reduce the number of bad things in the world, but you can try to add something good.”

And my muse was right.  It’s one thing to stay informed about current events; it’s quite another to dwell on problems that are beyond your power to solve.  I’m no activist.  I’m no community organizer.  I don’t have the skillset for that sort of work.  But I do know how to tell a story, and I do know how to draw pretty pictures to go with my stories.  The best thing I can do, both for myself and for the world, is to keep writing and to keep drawing—to give myself those comforts and hope that the finished products will give comfort to others as well.

With that in mind, there’s one last thing my muse said to me: “Don’t you ever—ever!—tell me your writing doesn’t matter.  Never say that to me again.  That is the most disrespectful and hurtful thing any writer could ever say to their muse.”

#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: 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: 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.

#IWSG: Rewriting My Writing Rules… Again!

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 about your writing life, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

So last month, I didn’t get much blogging done.  I was a little busy working on something else.  But I did have time last month to have a long, heartfelt conversation with my muse.  We ended up setting some new rules and renegotiating the terms of our writer/muse relationship.

There are plenty of writing rules out there, of course, but as my muse likes to say:

And that’s exactly what I did.  I took a look at some of the rules I’ve been following—both the rules I’ve adopted from other writers and also the rules I’ve invented for myself.  I cut some, edited others.  I condensed and combined a few things together.  Then, in the end, I presented my muse with the following letter:

Dear Muse,

I promise to write every single day, because writing requires daily practice, and my writing skills and writing stamina atrophy quickly if I skip too many days in a row.

I promise to do warm up exercises on a regular basis, because sometimes my brain needs a little help switching over from real life mode to writing mode.

I promise to work on a wide range of creative projects each week, because focusing on just one project leads to creative stagnation, while jumping between projects can help stir up the creative juices.

And if I break any of these promises, dear muse, I promise to write you a long and sincere apology letter, because that will help me learn from my mistakes and figure out how to do better next time.

Sincerely,

Your Writer.

I’ve written (and rewritten) plenty of writing rules for myself over the years, but I never thought to include those “because” clauses before.  Those because clauses make a real difference, I think.  It’s one thing to make up a bunch of rules and try to follow some sort of routine.  But rules and routines get boring.  Once that happens, it’s easy to forget why those rules were important, and excuses for breaking the rules are not hard to find.

So I’m going to make one last promise.  I promise to post my rules prominently in my writing sanctuary, because sometimes I need a quick reminder not only of what my rules are but why those rules are important to me.  And, as always, if it turns out these new rules don’t work out for me: writing rules are made to be rewritten.

So what do you think of my new writing rules, and what sort of writing rules do you follow?

#IWSG: When Your Muse Says Goodbye

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

So the other day, I woke up and found this mysterious letter on my desk: a letter from my muse.  She had something important to tell me about muse magic, and perhaps it’s something other writers need to understand, too.

Dear Writer,

Ever since we first met, you have constantly worried that you might one day sit down to write and find that I’m no longer there to help.  You’re afraid that I’ll leave you waiting there in front of the blank page, pen in hand, not just for a day or two but for weeks, or months, or years.  Or forever.  I want you to know that, yes, that is possible.  That could happen.

If you ever start to think you have all the answers, I will leave you.  If you ever come to believe that there’s nothing left to learn, that you’ve figured out all of life’s secrets and know everything that’s worth knowing, then I will leave you.  If you ever convince yourself that you’re better than everybody else, or smarter than everybody else, or more talented than everybody else, then I will leave you.

Of course I would never want to leave.  That’s not what I’m saying.  But we muses are simply unable to help close-minded, self-important humans.  Muse magic does not work on people like that.  So keep growing and keep improving, always admit when you’re wrong and try to learn from your mistakes, and then you’ll never need to worry about me going away.

Sincerely,

Your Muse.