Muse Management or Ten Ideas for Kicking Your Psyche to the Curb

Check out this blog for Happy Endlings which mentioned Soup Kitchen Table Writing as a way to jump start your work. Look at #9.  Thanks folks for the endorsement.  We write on Tues and Wed mornings and Thursday evenings in April.  Join us. www.SoupKitchenWriting.com   Anne

9.  Janet Lane from my Kaizen Support Group started participating in a
process this year called Soup Writing.  She swears by it now and I
admit I’m intrigued by the idea.  Essentially, you meet with other
writers, make soup (or a meal) then a inspiration thought or writing
prompt is shared and you spend the evening writing new material. The
creator of Soup Kitchen Writing is Anne Randolph.  She has a book out
called Soup Kitchen Writing and a website: 
www.annerandolph.com/SOUP_KITCHEN_WRITING.html

Muse Management or Ten Ideas for Kicking Your Psyche to the Curb
Posted by pattiann colt Apr 15th, 2009 | 7 Comments

Pearl Buck once said:  “I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.”

Apparently, mine frequently doesn’t know how to get down to work.  Because I’m still striving to beat Stephen King’s 2000 word a day habit and not even coming close.  Just out of curiousity sake, please take the quiz below and identify your muse management style:

When I can’t get the words to flow:

A.  I bang my head on the keyboard and pray the words will fall out.

B.  I plug into my IPOD and go for a walk, hoping to sweat the words out.

C.  I do my nails and hope inspiration will strike the words out.

D.  All of the above.

I’m embarassed to admit that I’m a “D”.  The other day, frustrated by a lack of progress, I made a list of all the techniques I had in my arsenal for fighting a “no words” day and was surprised that I actually have something better in my toolkit than banging my head on my keyboard.  Go figure.

Guess who benefits from that?  You do, because of course I was smart enough to realize that this was great blog material and wrote them up for you.  After all, walking around with bruises on our foreheads just ruins a good hair day.

I don’t know about yours, but my psyche, muse, creative genius – whatever you want to call it – is just damn temperamental.  “Sophie” – yes, she has a name – likes to do things her way and in her own time.  She has to her credit one month with almost 20,000 words written. Unfortunately, on her demerits list is also one six month period without one single word written, in a snit or some such nonsense.  Hence, this is why my file of ideas for managing “Sophie” is an inch thick.  I’ve bought all the best books on the subject, surfed the net, and experimented with the ideas so you don’t have to — and be thankful – one author suggested the bright idea of just sitting at your desk and not doing anything else and pretty soon you’d get bored and work.  Really?  This person does not know Sophie.  So check out this list and see how many are in your bag of tricks.  And please . . . if you have one I don’t have listed . . . well, hand it over!

1.  Kitchen Timer.  Remember timed multiplication tests?  Do they still do those or am I dating myself?  This technique is a variation and you don’t even have to do math.  15 minutes.  Starting now. Go.  Only one rule.  No editing what you’re writing in your head.  15 words, write as many words as you can in that time.  Write those words in your work log and count it as your goal for the day.  You’re done.  Go do your nails.  I heard that huge sigh of relief.

2.  Move.  Away from your usual work place.  Clear the dining room table. Go to the library.   Yeah, yeah, I know.  “But I have an office.”  Yeah, me too.  Move.  Find a clean surface with only the notes you need to continue your story.  Must be somewhere that you usually don’t write.  Trust me.  This clears the brain and improves the focus.

3.  Brainstorm. 30-40 minutes per day.  Blank pad in front of you.  Scribble.  Some of this you may never use, but my muse likes to come out and play and many a time, this technique punches through the wall, and has rolled over into productive ideas for the current work in progress without any pain.

4.  Just write.  This is what I call a three hour block, one day a week where I sit and write a story that doesn’t have to have a dynamite plot, or rich, friendly characters, or any brilliant writing.  It’s Sophie – aka my brain — putting down any words to any story I dream up.  Only rule – I’ve promised myself no one will read this content.  Ever.  This last part is important.  No one will read it, so it doesn’t matter if the facts don’t match up or in one chapter the dog is brown and now he’s black, or if you just don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.  Just write and enjoy the moment.

5.  Back up the truck.  You know that six months I went without writing?  Took a misstep in the prior scene and it trapped me in story hell.  If you find yourself avoiding your desk, avoiding this crackerjack of a story and any hint of being responsible to it, back up.  Read what you wrote.  Copy and paste it to a blank document, then delete it and write something else.  Amazingly, it’s not uncommon for many of us to paint ourselves into a corner, just don’t let your muse trap you there.

6.  Mental issues, er.. messages.  My six months again?  Yes, that’s going to keep haunting me.  I also noted during this time period, ummm, yeah, I was chanting ‘this sucks, this sucks, this sucks’ for every sentence, every paragraph, every idea.  Guess what happened?  Sophie took a vacation and wasn’t speaking to me AT ALL.  Then I realized what I was saying and changed it to ‘fix it later, fix it later, fix it later’.  Did she come back over night?  No, but within a few days . . . check your mental messages.  What are you saying to yourself as you’re writing.  If “fix it later” doesn’t work, try “this is brilliant.”  Say it.  Believe it.  It makes a difference.

7.  Clear the guilt.  I have all these great goals.  Then the reality of my life gets in the way, but somehow the goals never get adjusted to adapt to that reality and then I feel guilt, guilt, guilt.  Makes me feel so bad that the words won’t come – what’s the use, I’ve screwed up, this isn’t where I want to be.  If any of that sounds familiar, try this out instead:  I’m not going to feel guilty today.  I’m just going to work and see where that takes me and when I get to the end of the day I will celebrate and move to the next day. Sounds hokie, but again, it works.

8.  Friends. Family. Colleagues.  Don’t lose your connections with those who support you.  I have a critique group and a support group – both of which are filled with fabulous writers who understand when things go wrong, who will chat with me and kick my . . . well, you know . . . when they think I’m slacking off, or falling into a comfort zone, or giving out too many excuses or need some hugs and support.  My family nags, rewards, and hugs, too.  All around, I have a support network that works for me if I only use it.

9.  Janet Lane from my Kaizen Support Group started participating in a process this year called Soup Writing.  She swears by it now and I admit I’m intrigued by the idea.  Essentially, you meet with other writers, make soup (or a meal) then a inspiration thought or writing prompt is shared and you spend the evening writing new material. The creator of Soup Kitchen Writing is Anne Randolph.  She has a book out called Soup Kitchen Writing and a website:  www.annerandolph.com/SOUP_KITCHEN_WRITING.html

10.  Rewards.  Back a few years ago, I took Margie Lawson’s Defeat Self-Defeating Behavior course.  Margie’s big on rewards.  When things go your way, reward yourself.  When things don’t go your way, reward yourself for trying.  Took me awhile to get on board with this, because well, most of the things I want
are books and reading time and I buy my books and take my reading time no matter what.  Encouraged by my friends in my Kaizen Support Group, I’ve shamelessly borrowed things they use as rewards – pedicures, movie nights, glass of wine, and use them lavishly.  Sometimes I even reward myself BEFORE I meet my objectives.  Hmm. . . that was the month I hit 20,000 words.

Finally, I’d like to share something that author/editor Kelly McCrady — my friend and crit/writing partner — said to me when I was getting angsty one day:  “Don’t allow the pressure of writing twist in your gut and steal your joy of telling stories.  Your role is to tell those stories.  The possibility that you could earn money from selling these stories is a fringe benefit, a reward, a bonus.  Let the joy of writing them come first.”

So there you have it — my initial list.  Now go get to kicking.

http://www.AnneRandolph.com/SOUP_KITCHEN_WRITING.html    www.KitchenTableWriting.com

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