You know that show on the Discovery Channel, where two guys and a crew look into myths and urban legends, only to try and prove or disprove them? How much fun would it be crashing cars and blowing up toilets? Sounds like every demolition and pyro's dream job. But did you know there are myths about writing? You bet!
A couple weekends ago, my wife and I had the chance to finally meet one of our favorite authors (no, we did not have the tallest stack of books for her to sign ...).
I speak of Shannon Hale, author of Princess Academy, Goosegirl, Austenland, etc (she's also the same author that some readers have compared my writings to).
Before the signing, Shannon spoke to all us fans and had a Q&A. One question was asked, "how do you overcome writer's block?" The answer surprised me, yet I nodded in agreement right away. The general gist was this:
"There's no such thing as writer's block. There's no such thing as a muse. They're myths in the writing world."
She then talked about motivation and discipline, points that are worth expounding on. Is there such a thing as a muse? What is a muse? Some magical, external force that sends inspiration our way? Or doesn't, leaving us frustrated? The truth is, I never believed in such an entity. It's like being dependent on something before I can write, or an excuse for when I'm not writing.
In psychology, this is known as displacement, a kind of defense mechanism that justifies or rationalizes our lacking onto something/someone else. The more we rely on this excuse, the easier it is to justify not writing our 1000 words or editing our chapter for the day. Our productivity sways the longer this is maintained.
It's a lot like magical thinking or superstition, really.
Blame the universe or the muse all we want, but the reason that book isn't finished or edited lies on us.
Sure, life gets in the way at times, and might drain away our motivation - if we allow it. When discouragement rears it's ugly head, I imagine it getting all in my face, and then I push it aside. It's quite the spectacle.
What I imagine I'm doing
But it doesn't end there. Motivation is easy to come by, and we can tap into that well of awesomeness that's brimming to burst. For me, all it takes is three steps:
- Take a breath and clear your mind.
- Give yourself a manageable goal (X words).
- Resist distraction and complete that goal!
There might be an urge to raid the kitchen, play a game, or watch some TV, but that can wait. They are rewards for accomplishing your goal. Focus and don't cave.
This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. If your explanation for inspiration is an invisible muse, no one is going to change your mind. If writer's block is walling you from pressing on, no one can smash it for you. Instead of relying on a muse, think of yourself as a receiver. The story exists in the grand cosmos. Through you, the story can be told. Align yourself and write on!
Er ... that's not what I meant ...
What do you guys think? Are muses a myth or fact? Is writer's block a myth or fact? Do you chew gum?
I'm David, and wow! That Hugo movie was amazing!
Now go nail that role as Ender, kid!