I’m committed to my writing, but I’m so exhausted by the time I get home from work and put the kids to bed that there’s no creative energy left. How can I inspire myself, even when I don’t feel like it?
I get it. When I worked full time as a copywriter, I was writing down someone else’s message and vision for ten hours (yes, I factored in traffic). All of my creative energy went into my job, and after a long hard day of workin’ for the man, I thought, “Right now all I want to do is grab some ice cream and catch up on Hulu for four hours. I’ll work on this story tomorrow.”
And then it happened the next night. And then the next. And the one after that.
Now, a lot of you out there are going to protest (too much): “When my muse shows up, I’ll be able to get in 20,000 words in a day.” And that’s a great way to think about it – if you’re happy with your day-job drudgery.
The problem with what I call “muse-driven fiction” is that it’s not consistent. Are you going to wait around for Mr. or Mrs. Right, or are you going to do something about it? Same concept applies to muses. Wait for her, and she’ll never show up. You need to strike a balance between relying on your muse for inspiration and making it happen yourself.
Here are the top three ways I (NSFW) get the juices flowing:
Get some Terrible friends
Good friends respect your space and leave you alone to write. Bad friends break into your Hobbit hole, tear through your stock of Lembas bread and aged cheese, and then kick you out into the world to destroy magical rings and have other sorts of grand adventures worth writing about!
According to science, both exercise and submersing yourself in water stimulates (I warned you!) creative energy.
So, if you happen to live in the real world, employ a friend to drag you out on a hike or remind you to take showers once in a while (personal hygiene, alas, is still a requirement for the real world). If something’s not working, a change in perspective might be what you need.
Best tip ever, right? Bestselling author – just add zzz’s!
Carl Jung said that your mind makes sense of reality when you’re unconscious (please, don’t try knocking yourself out. Sleep is better for you and hurts less). So, say you’re wrestling with writer’s block. Your spouse and some writerly friends (including Lord Byron himself) decide to hold a writing contest. They all start typing (err, pen-and-inking) away, but you’re stuck, and you’re terrified of being made to look like a fool:
“I thought and pondered – vainly. I felt that blank incapacity of invention which is the greatest misery of authorship, when dull Nothing replies to our anxious invocations. ‘Have you thought of a story?’ I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative.”
Until, on one such morning, you wake up with a wisp of a dream: a “hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.” You start writing and call your creation Frankenstein.
Mary Shelley is not the only author to be fueled by the machinations of her unconscious mind; she’s in good company with Stephanie Meyer, Stephen King, and Robert Lewis Stevenson, among others.
So if you’re stuck, strike a deal with your unconscious: Try thinking about your story before you go to bed. Now quick! Write that shit down. As Mary Shelley said: “I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow.”
Become a Vampire
I recently heard Brandon Sanderson, who has close to 100 published works, talk about his writing habits. He wakes up and hits the keyboard after noon, takes a break from writing at 5pm and then, after his family is asleep, takes up the torch again from 10:30 until 4 am.
Let’s look at the facts, shall we?
2) Highest activity in the wee hours of the morning
3) Survives by draining other peoples’ [money]
Vampire? I think yes.
It’s a pretty romantic notion that we have: After the house trips into dreamland, we’re tip-tap-typing away. But for some of us, the wee hours just don’t cut it.
I used to think I was a vampire. Especially in college – while my roommates were pumping dance music in the other room, I resigned myself to a sleepless night and got some writing done. But, as it turns out, I’m actually more of a morning writer now. I find that I write with fewer crippling inhibitions right after I wake up.
See what works best for you. If you can’t seem to catch your muse at midnight, try free-writing on your lunch break. If the thought of waking up an hour early makes you grouch, give night-writing a shot. Everyone’s process is different, and only you know what works best for you.
So there you have it! Try out these three surefire tips to inspire yourself (sans muse). And if that doesn’t work, don’t come crying to me. It’s your muse.
With a B.A. in B.S. (translation: English Major), Rebecca Ann Jordan is a poet and speculative fiction author in San Diego. She has published poetry and flash pieces in Yemassee Magazine, Bravura Literary Journal, and Images Magazine, and currently acts as Junior Assistant Editor at Bartleby Snopes. Her fetishes include controversial grammar, mythological happenings and yarn-swapping. Or maybe she made all of that up.
Got a question? Tweet @beccaquibbles with the hashtag #askbecca, or email her. Or just leave a comment below! You might see it answered right here on DIYMFA.