Oh, That Muse…

Random, Writing

A lot of creative people have a muse. Dictionary.com defines muse as the goddess or the power regarded as inspiring a poet, artist, thinker, or the like. Pretty fair definition, I’d say.

Some people are lucky enough to have a real person as their muse, but I’m not. Some people find inspiration in a photo, or a piece of art, or a place, or even a cat. I don’t.

Of course not. I can’t possibly be normal, have something so mundane as a muse I could look at, talk to, interact with. Nope. Not happening.

Instead, I get a nebulous and temperamental voice in my head. Well, sort of a voice. That’s the easiest way to think of it, even though it makes me sound completely insane. Sometimes this ephemeral muse is kind to me and showers me with ideas. Other times, like in recent months, my muse shuts the hell up and won’t say anything at all, even under threat of violence. Which, let me tell you, makes me feel real adult and rational, threatening to kick the shit out of something that doesn’t even exist.

I’ve been thinking about this temperamental muse of mine a lot lately, wondering what its problem is. (His problem? The bugger’s cranky enough to be a male.) And… it keeps coming back to the same thing: the real world.

See, my muse went on a long hiatus once before. It began on September 11, 2001, and lasted for a really long time. I went from writing and creating 3D art all the time, pretty much non-stop, to just barely creating anything at all. Because after what happened, writing smutty, slashy fanfiction just seemed so unimportant and trivial, it wasn’t even worth it.

But a good muse won’t be kept down, and mine eventually recovered. It started presenting me with idea after idea–you should see my WIP file–and helping me fill my online galleries with art.

And then… political bullshit happened.

Leaving my muse all sorts of pouty and unhappy, barely willing to toss out a half-hearted idea every now and again.

Idiots running my country, bills growing larger than my income can support, bigots and assholes partying in the streets… What place for creativity in all that? Why bother? Why not go crawl under a rock and hide, don’t worry about writing queer fiction or blog posts, don’t bother producing pretty pictures in a world full of ugly…

Yeah, whatever. That’s a line of crap I’m not going to buy into. Because I’m not going to let this stupid world get me down. I will feed my muse with Dr. Pepper (the real sugar kind) and pizza until it cheers up, and I will keep right on writing and making 3D art.

It’s harder now than it should be, yeah. But it feels like not writing is letting the jerks of the world win, somehow. Like allowing the stupidity of others to keep me from creating art or writing is just giving up and letting “them” win.

So screw “them.”

If nothing else, at least I can create beautiful worlds where bigots and assholes get run over by steam-powered freight trains or blown up by colossal fireballs. That’s the beauty of being a writer, after all.

Writing Is For Writers

Writing

So you want to be a writer. You read a lot of books, and you think it would be really cool to see your name on a fabulous story. But writing is for writers, right? Normal people don’t write books. Only people who have magically transformed into this amazing, mysterious being known as a writer can write books. Right?

Wrong.

That way of thinking, while unfortunately pretty common, is a big pile of baloney. I thought that way myself for years. Sure, I made up lots of stories. Sure, I even wrote them down in carefully concealed notebooks that no one would ever see. But that didn’t make me a writer. Writers were people who produced amazing tales without effort, typing away in a special magical world, untroubled by reality. Writers never had to go back and revise or edit, because everything came out shiny, perfect, and publication-ready.

Ha!

The real truth is, writers are people who write. It’s not any kind of magical ability. It’s a lot of work, really. But it’s worth all the effort to have a finished story come out the other end.

So how do you do this writing thing? It’s a very individual process, coming as it does from inside a writer. Here are some suggestions to get you going.

Location

Find a spot to write. Okay, I know that sounds very self-evident. But it helps to have a designated spot to write in, because your brain gets accustomed to being creative in that spot. Some people like privacy, some like sitting in the middle of a busy coffee shop. Experiment a bit. Look around. If you write with portable tools, like a laptop or pen and paper, you’re free to find a spot wherever you can get to easily and won’t get chased off by annoyed workers. If you’re like me and write on a desktop computer, make your space around the computer special. Fill it with things you like. Because guess what? If you’re serious about writing, you’re going to spend a whole lot of time there.

Time

One of my biggest challenges is finding time to write, and I absolutely am not alone in that. My solution was to start getting up ridiculously early in the mornings (4:30am, UGH!) and reserving an hour for writing. It’s rather hard to get up that early, but very worth it. I highly recommend setting aside a specific time, whether daily or weekly or whatever, that is your specific writing time. Although if an idea hits you at some other time, by all means scribble that bad boy down! If you can do so safely, that is. Because if you put it aside for later, it just might vanish, and leave you wondering what that idea was you had on the way to work.

Learn

Becoming a good writer does not just happen. Well, maybe it does if you’re some kind of amazing super-being, but for the rest of us, we have to learn how to write. There are a vast number of books available on the craft of writing, many of which are actually far more interesting than your high school English class. There are also a lot of writing classes and workshops available. Writer’s Village University is my favorite. Looking around on the site, it looks like they’ve killed off the old free F2K course, but they offer a $30 trial membership. I’ve let my paid membership lapse due to financial issues, but it was very much worth the cost.

There are also a near-infinite variety of free “how to write” resources on the web. Obviously. You’re reading one right now. Look around. Explore the different resources. Be aware that some of what you’ll find is pure crap. Pick up the bits and pieces of advice that work for you, and remember them.

Practice

There’s a book out there called Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. Overall, it bugged me, for an assortment of reasons. But. The book gave me two concepts that are very important to my writing. One of these is writing practice.

Here’s a quick overview of the technique. Dedicate fifteen minutes of your day to writing. Not thinking, not daydreaming, writing. Get busy. Write what’s in you head, even if it’s just stream-of-consciousness. Keep it up for the full fifteen minutes.

And then, after you’re done, you might just find something amazing in the verbal barf you just produced: an idea, a neat turn of phrase, a sentence you’re just dying to have your main character use. There you go.

Another benefit to writing practice is that it gets you in the habit of writing. This ties in to what I’ve already said about location and time. It’s all about habits and training your brain. Or, if you prefer, training your muse.

Permission To Write

Yes, that sounds stupid. But it’s not. Give yourself permission to write. Forget about whatever societal baggage you’re dragging around that says only writers can write. And then take it one step further and apply the other world-changing bit of advice Natalie Goldberg offers: It’s okay to write shitty first drafts. No one’s going to read them unless you want them to. If your characters want to run around calling each other poopy-heads, that’s fine. Just get the words out on the page, whether paper or virtual. Once you’ve produced a whole, complete story, then you can worry about fixing it. So let yourself go! Tell your inner editor to put a sock in it. Sit down and write!

Okay, there you go. Nothing special, nothing fancy, just a paraphrasing of some different basic concepts I’ve seen pop up again and again since I decided to start writing for real. What it really boils down to is summed up in the absolute best piece of writing advice I’ve ever been given: Apply butt to chair. Place fingers on keyboard. Write!

 

Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be blogging…

Writing

After several months of colossal personal issues and a side order of upheaval, things are finally settling down. So I’m going to get back to work. Right in time for Camp NaNo, of course. Still haven’t decided if I want to do this blog weekly or monthly, but it will get done.

So look for a for-real post with actual substance to it sometime soon, as in within the next week or two. My original plan still stands: the main focus of the blog will be on writing, with side ventures into 3D art and occasional personal babbling.

The first topic, coming soon, will be about writing. Yes, I know I said that already. But I mean writing, not sitting around saying “I wish I could write” or “Someday I’ll write a book.” Actually sitting down and writing. Scary, ain’t it?

Going offline for a while.

Random

Yes, I know. I just made a nicely public commitment to create a writing blog. But once again, real life has intruded.

I’m beginning the process of trying to buy a business. And by “business,” I mean my current job. If I can pull it off, life will be really, really good. But if I screw this up, I will most likely lose everything.

So in the interests of not effing up my entire life, I’m going to stay away from most social interactions for a while, and focus on scary things, such as market analysis and demographics. Things I became a dog groomer, 3D artist, and fiction writer to avoid, damn it. But if I want to continue living in this rather nice town, with a steady income and clients who love me (I mean this literally. I hear it a lot, usually from little older ladies with cute little dogs.), not to mention the ability to purchase food on a reasonably regular basis, well… I’m just going to have to suck it up, do the kind of work I dislike intensely, and put together a stellar business plan that makes me look like I’m so good there’s no risk at all in loaning me 60K. Ain’t no one going to do it for me, or help out. Even my sister the accountant answered one question for me, then told me to go find a financial adviser.

I’ll likely still be at deviantArt every day, but just lurking quietly, looking at a few bits of art in the mornings. And I’m still doing Camp NaNoWriMo, of course, but I’ve drastically reduced my word count. I love to write, but my only means of supporting myself is far more important. Everywhere else I’ll likely check once or twice a week if all goes well.

Wish me luck, because I really need it… Er, wait. Please wish me good luck. With this much on the line, I don’t want to take any chances.

Born Of Frustration

Writing

A couple weeks ago, I was starting in on a new book I picked up from Instafreebie. This should have been a good thing. It’s a free book, right? Awesome! And it has a cool cover, and an intriguing title. I was all sorts of happy and excited to jump right in.

BUT.

The typos snuck in first. Just one, then another, then a few more. Then the misused words arrived. And then came the horrible, sloppy feel to the writing. I barely made it through the first chapter.

I checked the info at the front of the book, and sure enough, this sad little thing was self-published.

Now that tidbit of information simultaneously pissed me off and made me sad. Because, you see, I self-publish. So I tend to take a poorly edited self-published story as a personal insult. They give hard-working authors like me, that bust some serious butt on multiple revisions and heavy-duty editing, then have a beta reader or two go over things and find what we missed, a really bad name. Because people get hold of a self-published book like this freebie I tried to read and assume that all self-published writers don’t bother to edit their work.

This whole episode reminded me of a time when, long ago, I was a slash writer and reader. And then slash started getting popular, and everyone wanted to write it, and it got all crappy. And… in response, I created a website with slash writing tips and links to writing resources. It was moderately popular, too, judging by the traffic on my server. Then real life exploded and I had to abandon the project.

But I think I’m going to take up the “improve lazy writing” torch again, right here on this blog. *sigh* Just what I need, another project… But lack of time aside, I really feel the need to do something about the vast amount of lousy writing out there on the wild web. Yeah, it’s true, lazy writing makes mine look really good in comparison. But who the hell is going to bother checking out self-published books at all if they have to dig really hard to find a good one?

So writers, keep an eye out for future postings of writing resources, discussions of editing stuff, and so forth. And maybe, just maybe, someone who wants to improve their skills will stumble across this blog, and the world will be spared at least one poorly-edited, self-published story.

Read An Ebook Week

Writing

It’s that time of year again!

What time?

Oh, you don’t know about it yet. Every year Smashwords has a big sale on most of the ebooks at their site. So if you’re bored and you need something to read, head on over to Smashwords and pick up a cheap ebook or three. All of mine are in the “dirt cheap” category, with the most expensive set at $2.50. So hurry up and go shopping!
Sale runs from March 5 through 11.