Friday, August 29, 2008

A Kick in the Pants and Other Ways to Motivate Your Muse

I keep a variety of tools in my writer's toolbox designed to kick my muse in the pants. Deadlines are one of them. Some are self-imposed. Others come from outside sources by way of a contest, submission deadline, or editor.

Self-imposed deadlines are nefarious in my mind because unless you're a drill sergeant, it's easy to let them slide. Fixed deadlines, on the other hand, are my very best friends. With few exceptions, outside due dates are non-negotiable, despite family obligations, illness, or procrastination.

I work best under the pressure of a fixed deadline. The habit stems from my days as a columnist and before that, from college, where I learned how to write news on deadline. Staring at a blank screen with a deadline looming was unnerving at first. But the consequences of not doing the work on time were so extreme--getting an F for the assignment, for example--that I learned quickly.

Learning how to cage the inner critic and summon the muse at will is good practice for any writer. It's also an excellent way to learn about letting go. Which is why I've given myself a writing deadline for the weekend.

Monday is the submission deadline for a proposed story for Stay at Home Moms and Power Moms, a book in development for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The market's a paying one and the required length is only 300-1200 words. I'm on it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Word of the Day

Not yet started on MA because it took me an hour to clean up my inbox and chat with S's speech teacher about concerns for the coming school year. One of the last emails I read was my Word of the Day from Today's word: argillaceous. No clue what it means? It was a new one for me, too. Look it up here. I try to use my word of the day in a sentence the day it arrives in my inbox. This should be interesting. I can't even imagine my characters saying it.

Writerly Celebration--Ding dong the Kids are Gone!

On the walk home from school today, I passed a number of moms lingering outside their cars, chatting about their summers, and celebrating the fact that today was their first full day without kids underfoot.

Said a fellow mom of a child with special needs as we stopped to chat for a few minutes: "A whole day by myself; I don't know what I'm going to do with a whole day."

I smiled, knowing exactly what I'll be doing. Writing. On tap for today: continued discovery of MA, a new story set in the same realm as KM. *Claps hands with abandon.* Can't wait to get started.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cooking up Tasty Revisions? Toes and Fingers Crossed

E's at school. Errands are done. S is sprawled on the sofa doodling in her sketch pad. Dinner's cooking, thanks to my trusty crock pot and a favorite recipe from Sparkpeople.

On the menu writing-wise: continued re-visioning of my current work-in-progress. Toes and fingers crossed that my muse joins me for this session.

On the menu for dinner: White Bean Chili . It's scrumptious and easy. I add a pound of ground turkey to the pot and voila! instant meal in a bowl.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Summertime, School Days, and Searching for My Muse at O'dark Thirty

Don't get me wrong. I love my girls and the chance to spend the summer exploring and lounging and wriggling our toes in the fresh-mown grass. What I don't love is the loss of uninterrupted writing time our relaxed schedule brings.

Last year, I ensured regular butt-in-chair time despite having my younger two underfoot by launching my Summer Writing Experiment and dragging myself out of bed to write at o'dark thirty each morning. Working on re-visions before the girls needed me was good for my soul and essential for my muse. The daily routine helped keep my characters near the surface so that whenever I sat down ready to work, they joined me without hesitation.

This summer, despite pleading and prodding, my muse refused to join me at my keyboard more than a handful of times during my 5 a.m. writing sessions. It wanted to work mid afternoons which conflicted with our summer schedule. To say that I've been frustrated by this turn of events would be an understatement. Sigh.

E returned to school full-time yesterday. S returns next Tuesday. At the risk of sounding like an ungrateful mom, I'm relieved. Here's hoping my muse is, too.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Writer Mom's Mini Break--One Way to Silence the Inner Critic and Honor the Process

Not too long ago, I caught myself lamenting my ability to write more, produce more, submit more.

What's wrong with me? I wondered. How is it that my colleagues--especially fellow writer moms--can find the time they need to sit-butt-in-chair each day, but I can't?

I wallowed in these thoughts and others until I connected the time of year with my mood. It's August. Self-defeating thoughts like this tend to find me this time of year. Why I didn't make the connection sooner is better left for another post.

Bottom line: the summer is winding down. The girls' thoughts have turned to school and the need to fit as much into the waning summer as possible. This has translated into busier days, and little time (or energy) leftover for doing the hard work of writing.

Once I realized where my mood had come from, I refused to wallow any longer. E returns to school the end of next week. S the week after that. During my morning-pages time the next day, I gave myself (and my muse) permission to to take a mini break until school starts.

My muse has been smiling ever since.