Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gurus, Schedules and Misbehaving Muses

by Janis Patterson

All the successful ‘make a million’ and 'you too can write a bestseller' gurus stress the importance of structure… how dependable it is. How good it is. How having specific times and goals for specific projects increases your creativity. How freeing a firm schedule is. One even said ‘discipline is freedom’… Sounds like something out of a totalitarian work camp doesn’t it?

Heaven knows I’ve tried. I’ve set word goals and deadlines and definite working hours. I’ve made charts and visual reminders and promised myself chocolate if I fulfill all these targets. I just can’t understand how I can concentrate on goals and targets if I’m thinking about the chocolate that I supposedly can’t have until it’s all over? That’s a real killer – and not the good kind like I put in my mysteries. Then there’s life itself… the laundry must be done, or perhaps the washer maniacally crashes just as The Husband runs out of his favorite shirts. Aunt Edna comes into town for the first time in years and must be looked after. Accidents, problems, family… the world is full of interruptions just waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, my Muse is not well trained. Pretty much untrainable, if you ask me. She comes when she wants to but not when she is ordered. She sulks when something takes precedence over her when she is ready to pour forth deathless prose. Sometimes when she doesn’t want to work I can jumpstart her by forging through by typing a bit of rubbish that she rushes in to improve, but she has never responded well to regimentation. I can work without her, of course, which usually sends her into a sulk and my writing into the pits, but at least that way I have something down that might lead to something worth keeping when she is ready to forgive me. All in all she’s a pretty good Muse and I guess she should be allowed some leeway.

My real drawback is me – and the worst problem is Procrastination.

No, not writers’ block. To me that means you can't work or create at all. With Procrastination the mind keeps running at full tilt, adjusting scenes, coming up with dialogue (with me saying all parts, of course), hatching beautiful metaphors and descriptions… I just don’t want to write it down right now, even as I know full well that once I am ready to get back into writing mode all those beautiful words will have irretrievably dissolved into vapor. I just don’t want to do it now. I want to straighten my handkerchief drawer, or do just one more jigsaw on that lovely new site, or just sit in front of the TV and pretend to be a vegetable.

Not productive, but I firmly believe necessary to the soul. And I will write a piece expounding on that theory, too. When I get around to it. Eventually.

ps - in case you haven't seen it, my new Flora Melkiot mystery is out -


Margaret Fieland said...

Janis, I totally get it. I can't think of the last time I experienced writers' block. Procrastinating, on the other hand, is a daily problem; there's always too much to do.

M, now really, really going to haul out the vacuum and scoop up all that dog hair ...

Linda Kane said...

Even though I'm retired I've taken on so much there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day. When I sit down to write, social media comes to my minnd, to advertise, blast out my books, and my new book I have bursting out of my mind gets pushed to the wayside. I was much more organized and had less to do when I worked full time it seems.

Morgan Mandel said...

I know how it is about life interfering. Things like a backed up tub kind of get in the way, not to mention lots of junk I need to get rid of, but never seem to have time to get down to it.

I hope to work on my thriller today sometime, but first we must go to get the dog's nails cut.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Writing is hard work and so it's just natural for us to find other things to do. So special congrats that you have a new book.

Jackie Houchin said...

Yep, that's my problem as well - procrastination. That's why deadlines are great for me. Oh, those last few days before an article is due...!!!!
I'm a journalist and I belong to a group of novelists. Sometimes I feel like a fish out of water - the title of my recent post -
But, you know what? Most of the other ladies on my blog have a problem with procrastination too - dogs to walk, hubby to mind, worries, paperwork, manicures.... We just need to sit down and WRITE, then EDIT. Thanks for the post... you have inspired me.

Janice Seagraves said...

I write down my goals on sticky notes and place them where I can see them everyday. Once I finish a goal, I take great satisfaction in taking that sticky note down and tearing it up.


Vonnie said...

Oh Janis, I agree with everything you said. It's hard to know what comes first - the smug, misbehaving Muse or procrastination - the chicken or the egg.