Last night all I could think about was the deadline for this blog post. I had put it off all month. At the last minute I was hoping to write something inspirational for both readers and writers. While hope springs eternal, I found myself pondering – and pondering – what that perfect message should be.
If I’m going to be honest, I knew I wouldn’t come up with anything substantial because I have been distracted. When I’m distracted I usually sit down with a friend at a coffee shop and hash out whatever is on my mind until I’m back on track. Since I can’t do that you’re ‘it’, my friends in a virtual coffee shop. I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing while I’ve been locked down and pondering this post. We’ll start with the garden and move on from there.
Tomato plants. I haven’t actually thought about the tomatoes as much as I have been checking on them. Going outside every fifteen minutes is a nice break from staring at my blank computer screen or at my husband napping on the couch. No matter how often I check, though, the tomatoes still have not turned red and my husband still has not gone back to work.
My fabric stash. Over the last eight weeks I have knocked it down some. Here’s the count: five blouses, a quilt top, a fully-lined summer suit (1 dress that would have fit 15 years ago when I was 25 pounds lighter), and ten face masks. Here’s my question: is sewing my stash like a tree falling in the forest or is it like ‘build it and they will come’? I think it’s the latter. When the day comes to have dinner in a restaurant I will have lots to wear.
Work. Honestly, my brain has been mush when it comes to writing a new book. I have an idea but I couldn’t get it to gel, so I looked through my files and reread some of my early work. I had so much fun that I edited and published five novels from the 90s. I also published The Death of Me, a novella I wrote that morphed into a novel (Before Her Eyes). These two works are as different as they are similar. Some times pondering one thing will lead to another. The trick is not to ignore the ‘other’. Productivity: mission accomplished.
Finally, I’ve been pondering important things: the individual versus the greater good, the constitution and ‘guidelines’ as our lockdown stretches into yet another week, another month, another century. My heart is sad for those who are sick and who have died; my heart is breaking for my relatives and friends who are losing their livelihood, home and, well, everything they have worked hard for. I won’t tell you which side I’m on when it comes to hunkering down or opening up. I will only say that I realize that what I have been pondering all along is something readers and writers have always been inspired by: story. No matter what road we choose there will be stories at the end of it. We are writing them now.
These will be tales of tragedy and triumph; there will be something to laugh at and something to cry over. We will all see these events – and each other – differently. Eventually there will come a time when we put pondering aside so that we can sit with friends at a coffee shop, tell our stories, and hug each other when all is said and done.
While there is so much concern and controversy over climate change, I am more fearful about the future of our own environment: that of words, writing and speaking.
Nowadays, it seems that one must be a meteorologist; able to gauge and predict social climatic conditions, because you never know who you might offend if your views run contrary to the prevailing winds. A particular topic might heat things up. A storm rages. The dissenting voice is silenced.
It seems we are still living the lyrics to the popular 1968 song by Sly and the Family Stone, Everyday People:
“…There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one, trying to be a skinny one…
The news, social media, college campuses, and politics will most likely continue their tug of war. But I hope that the writing community will elevate itself above that fray and be able to provide a safe haven where every voice lifts up on the wings of freedom, and where every voice is welcomed and heard.
See you next time on March 22nd.
The other day I was musing about muses. This was a rather convoluted process that went something like this:
I want to write but I don’t have an idea. I should write, but I’m bummed because I don’t have an idea. I could write if I had a great idea. I need to get one and until I do, I’ll watch TV. There’s a movie on TV called The Muse. I’ll watch The Muse and get inspired.
This is how the musing went after the movie.
The Muse is awful. She’s demanding, self-centered, and doesn’t care about the writer’s work. Still, the he sees something in her. What does he see in her? I want a muse. I just don’t want a muse like that.
I turned off the TV, obsessed with the idea of getting a muse. I just had to figure out where to get one. Since I’d never actually seen a muse, I decided I better find out exactly what I was looking for.
In the dictionary, the first definition of muse is to be thrown into a deep state of dreamy abstraction. The second is a noun, naming any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology that preside over song, poetry, the arts and sciences. The third definition is the one we think of most often, a human source of inspiration or a guiding genius.
With this information in hand, I analyzed my career and realized that a muse has guided me every step of the way. I have often found myself lost in a dream state inspired by another writer. Their work has more often than not sparked an idea for a book of my own or a shown me a new way of laying a story foundation or become a point of reference for an essential building block.
The second definition – the naming of the goddesses – is a matter of inspirational faith. I have always believed that there is ‘something’ hovering over artists that not only encourages the creative soul, but also gives it the courage needed to present its work to a critical public.
That brings us back to the movie and the third definition of muse: the source of inspiration that we can touch and talk to. For some people this is one person, for me it has been many. I don’t call them muses; I call them friends, lovers, family and colleagues. Each step of my career was inspired and moved forward by the muse of the moment, the one person I needed just then.
There was the high school teacher who told me I wrote well, my husband who rescued by early attempts from the trashcan, my children who proudly said their mom was a writer. As the years went on and the books piled up, there were editors who trained me and readers who cheered me on, inspiring me to be better at my craft. All these people were – as definition three would have us believe – guiding geniuses.
It doesn’t matter if they knew the roll they played in my writing. What matters is that I wrote because of them and never in spite of them. The truth is, all you have to do to find a muse is open your eyes, your mind, and your heart. That muse is there – sometimes where you least expect it.
You probably know I’m the host of the WRITE NOW! Workshop Podcast where I interview authors, editors, and more about the writing life. I also do an Encouraging Words episode on the first Sunday of each month. (If you start listening from the beginning of the show, you’ll know I did three episodes a week for the first six months. Burnout caused me to rethink that and I went to one episode a week plus an Encouraging Words episode once a month.)
Last Sunday, I spoke about something I’ve heard before and heard again recently. Sometimes when it seems like we’re stuck, even buried under the weight and pressure of circumstances, if we look at things a little differently we might see ourselves as planted, not buried.
Here is the audio of that episode, and below is the YouTube version. I hope you find this thought to be an encouraging part of your day! 😀
If you read my June post, you know I’ve been struggling with burnout, and now also struggling to understand what it is and how to overcome it. In July, I talked about one of my favorite topics – hitting the Restart button. That seemed a timely topic in the middle of the year and in the middle of the burnout problem.
Today I did some freewriting first thing in the morning to ask myself some questions. Mostly, and specifically, what do I like to write?
I was listening to Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck in one of their free classes, I think the Dream Killers episode, and Rachel said you have to know what you like to write. Or what you like to write about. If you like writing blogs and articles and short stories, but hate writing 50,000-word novels, don’t write novels! If you love writing 100,000-word epic fantasy books but hate writing blogs, don’t write blogs!
And it made me wonder if the reason I rarely post to my blog is because I don’t actually like blogging, or if it’s something else. Maybe I don’t like having to create a super interesting and helpful piece for others that doesn’t resonate for me when I write it. (That would be weird if it were true because I love helping people!) Maybe I need to write blog posts that are more for me, things I find more interesting despite whether I think others will also find it interesting.
That may be part of it, but I really think it’s more the pressure I put on myself – create an interesting post that readers will love, or don’t bother writing anything at all. No wonder I’ve gotten it into my head that I don’t like blogging.
Funny, this is a very similar problem to the bigger one over the last several months when I was trying to decide if I still liked to write books. Then I went to RWA in July and I seemed to come alive during the writing sprints at the start and end of each day! I started writing on a book idea, Abra Cadaver, just for the fun of it with no idea when I would work it into my production schedule. I had a blast! And I wrote a ton! I already have an outline for a trilogy. 😀
So how can I find a similar burst of enthusiasm for blogging? Or how can I find out if I do or don’t enjoy blogging under the right circumstances? (And what are those magic circumstances?)
Are you struggling with not knowing if you even like to write? Blogs or books? In my mind, most writers are not struggling with this. This is my own personal problem that is a result of my own personal burnout. So my mind said this is a waste of time and energy and blogging space to even put it into words.
But what if I’m wrong and I’m not being self-centered and someone out there needs me to write this? Maybe you?
When I first woke up this morning, I read my Bible, Matthew 17. I was thinking about how interesting it was that Peter said, of course my master pays the temple tax, and then he walked back to where they were staying and before he could speak, Jesus brought up the subject in a roundabout way. But it’s Peter’s walk back that I was focused on.
What was Peter thinking? Was he thinking that he’d spoken too quickly again? Was he wondering if he was right, or maybe he’d answered the priest incorrectly? Was he trying to convince himself of one way of thinking or another? Was he building an argument to convince Jesus of a particular way of thinking?
And then Jesus not only asks him a question that directly gives Peter the answer to the question before Peter can even tell Jesus what happened, but we find out God is already providing for the physical need as well. Go fish, Jesus says, and in the first fish will be money enough to pay for your tax and mine.
I usually read that part and think, gross, gutting a fish would be so gross to me. But today I read it and thought, hey, that’s like God telling me to go write something or create a new set of ads for my books and the money that would come in would be the exact amount for some need I have.
That I could do!
This blog post is already too long, too long-winded, too personal, and I’m still not sure if I should post it because someone might find it helpful, or if I should relegate it to the private journaling area, forever hidden. (Burnout apparently brings out all my insecurities!)
See? It’s the pressure to create the perfect post, the one that is helpful, the right length, with content doesn’t annoy anyone if they don’t fit in the target audience.
The Pressure Monster is telling me to stop, don’t post this, don’t even write blog posts anymore. (Even though I have three blogs! All neglected, but important to me.) Heck, the Pressure Monster says, it would be far safer for you and far better for everyone else if you just stopped writing altogether.
I’m posting this anyway. Without taking time to find the perfect pictures to post with it, or try to create SEO-worthy subheadings. It’s my way to defeat the monster.
What is the Pressure Monster attacking you about? What are you not writing or not doing because the pressure to do it “right” is too much? Maybe some of it doesn’t need to be done or written at all! Maybe you’ll decide some of it is important enough to do even if you don’t do it “perfectly” this time.
Either choice can be a good one, so choose! I hope this post helps you defeat the Pressure Monster, too. 😀
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