Do you make writing goals for the New Year?
With 2018 upon us, many make resolutions and goals as we turn to a calendar of wide-open pages, just waiting for us to fill it. You know—write x number of words per day, commit to finishing the manuscript (or beginning it), plan to finally work with that book editor, resolve to face rejection and query those agents. Or any number of others.
And while these all are admirable quests, the most important one, the one without which all of the others become hobbled, can sure get lost.
The essence of what we do is artistry. And preceding all the other lofty goals is the one of paramount magnitude: to foster your creativity.
Paradoxically, often making publishing goals is the very thing that thwarts that inspiration, and sends your muse flying south.
The muse lives in the borderlands, in the ethereal locus between the worlds. If you push her, even if you look directly at her, she will shape change or disappear. She is at once the mythological voice of the deep psyche, and the words that flow from your fingertips when you silence your mind.
She just cannot be boxed.
Which leaves you in a bit of a quandary, no? All the self-help gurus tout the benefits (nay, even the requirements) of listing goals, breaking those down into manageable steps, committing to starting the first items on the agenda.
And yet, University of Scranton research suggests that just 9.2% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.
So what’s a writer to do?
Yep, this from the editor who hammers on her writers to write! Which of course, I do.
And even though I’ve extolled some of the virtues of NaNoWriMo, if you participated, you might be feeling a tad dry, a bit cracked around the edges.
Again, the muse is like that. She lives in a land of fertile lushness. If you drain the fecund fields too aggressively, she retreats into the deep rivers of the soul to rejuvenate.
And revivify, you must let her do. Because you simply cannot force creativity.
But I do know of one way to foster her: Listen. Listen to her heartbeat, to the sighs she sings from the broken boughs. Quiet your mind, breathe. Ask her to lead your way.
Because funny thing about that muse—like your intuition, she speaks in whispers. But, she always speaks.
Your only job is to allow space for her. You can’t cajole or force or even bargain with her existence.
She’s smarter than that.
But you can pave a path for her in your psyche, fashion a place for her to be.
Appreciating her guidance feeds her. Following it allows her to flourish, to multiply in strength, like providing muscles with the sustenance to grow.
I counsel my writers to progress slowly. Yes, to be loyal to their writing time, but not force the issue. By far the biggest problems I see in manuscripts are due to them being pushed, due to writers pressing, marching on too aggressively, too quickly.
But mainly, I counsel my writers to find their own way.
You’ll hear oh-so-much advice on how to write a book:
Write 1000 words per day
Write early in the morning, or late at night
Write this chapter before that one
And on and on and on.
None of those will work, however, if the way itself is not yours.
All successful authors find their own methods for staying connected to creativity, to inspiration, to getting that book out of their heads and onto the page.
There simply is no one way. No “right” way.
There is only your way.
So commit to that this year—to finding your way. To learning how that still voice within you most effectively comes out, in order to fashion characters and plot twists and beautiful prose on the page.
Listen to the advice of the gurus, then like in 12-step groups, take what you need and leave the rest. Then find your own path.
That’s what great authors do.
Now, in the New Year, go be one!