Insecure Writer's Support Group

Keeping the Muse Alive #IWSG #writerslife

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time for another posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Learn more here.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I’ve been struggling creatively the last couple of months. I had blasted through the first couple of months of this year to do all the things I had on my goals list for 2023, and inevitably burned out. There were clues leading up to the big descend into the pit of burnout – not being satisfied with a novel that I had published, then rewrote, and ultimately unpublished – as well as huge warning signs. All of which I ignored, of course. Why would I want to look at the parts of myself that distracts from writing?

If we look at life as a three-part act, like a book, every thirty years is an act. Which means when you’re in your early thirties, you are a toddler again – only with thirty years of baggage and experience to aid or hinder you. (The same again for sixty.) Anyhow, that should be exciting. It means you have that exuberance and creativity of a child again. Or you should…

But all those things you hide and restrain from interfering with your creativity takes up so much energy. And to create, you need as much energy as you can expend. So when you start to feel like you are running low on energy and creativity, you need to look at what you are wasting your energy on.

Having health issues, relationships, and all the other things that make a well-rounded life will use up energy, obviously. And you need to refill the creative well with story (books, movies, TV shows, theatre, etc.) and with beauty (art, taking a walk in nature, etc.). You also need to nourish your body so it can be at optimum performance.

Those in their first act seamlessly pivot from running around to creative pursuits, with boundless energy to boot.

But as we grow up, the energy seems to seep away. We stop seeing the magic around us as clearly as we did as children.

Still, something else can be draining your energy. Those things you keep hidden – even, or especially, from yourself. The things we keep hidden in our Shadow (psychological theory that we unhealthily repress aspects of the self in the unconscious) impacts our behaviour even when we don’t realise it.

To examine what you are refusing to acknowledge to yourself can be painful. But you’ll be surprised what you will find – and how much energy you have been using to resist looking at these things.

I wrote about spring cleaning in August’s IWSG post with book recommendations that dig deeper than just throwing out that blouse you haven’t worn since someone’s birthday decades ago. The energy gained from decluttering your life (physical, digital, emotional) is phenomenal.

Back to the story analogy: just like our characters have external and internal conflict to deal with, so do we. And it is the inner conflict that is more insidious in how it drains our creative energy. We have our own lies about ourselves we believe that we need to overcome. We have our own blind spots keeping us bound on this path of less creativity.

And as impatient as we are to return to writing, our creativity is like a muscle: you can’t just jump in and do a triathlon, you need to start with warm-up exercises. These may include but are not limited to:

  • Healing (realising that you need a break from writing and reconnecting with yourself and your imagination – and that can even be in the kitchen, cooking and baking things you’ve only dreamt of).
  • Growth (watching stories unfold in front of you in the form of movies, TV shows, theatre, or even video games. Books are the best, but sometimes it’s difficult to read when you still need to heal).
  • Passion (research the things you are passionate about. From there your passion for the subject will automatically turn into excited writing where you can’t think of anything else).

It’s perhaps the last that gives us such a high when we create – which makes this the best profession in the world.

Right now, I can see glimmers of the latter. I know my creativity is there, even if it is somewhere just out of reach in this dark tunnel I’m in.

Writers always joke that writing is hard. The writing life is even harder. And keeping that capricious muse alive…? We need to know our WHY: why we want to write, why we need to write, why… Knowing your WHY keeps that Muse alive. Because without that WHY, you won’t be able to go on when you believe you have nothing left to give.

The easiest way to find your WHY is to look back to your first act, when you fell in love with story. Finding that joy again in whichever act you are in now, is key to being a long-term author. Your WHY can change with each act, but the core of the WHY doesn’t as it is the core of what keeps your Muse alive. Even when the naysayers bang on your door…

There are always those myopic people who tell you — even in comments on your own blog (which I trash, BTW, before they bring everyone down with their outdated views) — that being an indie author just means that you weren’t good enough to land an agent and a traditional publishing deal. Yeah, that totally happens. FYI, here’s a survey you might be interested in: Self-publishing Authors Earn More says ALLi Income Survey

I’m clinging to my WHY with white knuckles on hard days. My Muse is sitting on my desk as I write this, swinging her legs in boredom and otherwise acting a bit like P!nk. (Perhaps because I’m listening to the artist’s greatest hits. LOL.) The video below is eerily accurate…

But you have to work through these things and get to what is truly important: Writing great books.

Have you ever found yourself struggling to write or be creative? How does your Muse behave?

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11 thoughts on “Keeping the Muse Alive #IWSG #writerslife”

  1. Yes, I struggle all the time. I don’t have the passion I used to about getting published. I stopped working on my manuscript in July to prepare for a webinar for SCBWI. I’m having a hard time getting back into my routine of regular writing. Hopefully, we’ll both get back in our grooves soon.

  2. Oh I so understand this! Thank you for writing this. I’ve been floundering lately. My problem is I’m FILLED with creativity but I just can’t seem to find the way to get it OUT! I liken my mind to a cauldron. Everything is tossed in and is bubbling, splashing all over the floor and I’m just standing there watching it happen, wondering if I should bottle it, mop it up or just dump the whole thing out and start over! My muses (yes, plural) are currently doing their own thing. One sits in the corner, rubbing his forehead and huffing…loudly. The other, well, he’s currently clambering up the shelves looking at the cobwebs that I have dutifully ignored for the past five years.

    Rest is important. Refilling the well is important. It can be hard to allow our selves the time and THAT I believe is the mark of a healthy creative : knowing when to stop, bow out and prop your feet up and let the creativity of others refill yours.

    Happy Wednesday.
    Here’s to getting back that writing passion and energy 🙂

  3. I recently started a job as a crossing guard so I see a lot of energetic kids, and I would love to bottle their energy so I can save it for when I need it. That’d probably make a good horror story. LOL

  4. Time out and relaxing are essential. I hope you find the writing flow soon. I’m in a similar position with a new idea – I have a single line, and I don’t know if it’s a character speaking or narrative – but luckily I have a couple of other projects keeping me occupied. Hopefully that sentence will make itself clearer soon.

  5. Gosh, I’d not heard about the 30 year cycle before Ronel. Could that explain why I’m having struggles in my 60s that didn’t occur in my 50s I wonder? I am certainly feeling the need for a mega declutter and as you say, not just of physical things but a wholescale re-visit of my path from here. I’m trying to lean into it and not allow the fear to get out of hand. I mean, we need some fear, right?

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