Thursday, June 29, 2006

Road Trip With the Muse

Loyal reader JK writes:

Hey man. School is out and I'm home for the summer. Nothing going on except my freelance column and the occasional trip to see the girl. Basically, this is prime time to write. But I can't get going on anything. It's not like I don't have the time. It's like I sit down, tell myself I should be writing, and then I don't. And then I end up writing other writers and asking inane questions such as: How do you stay productive, even when you're busy?Thoughts?

I am the wrong person to ask right now because with my new job, and having a recent bout of pnuemonia, I've been away from the keyboard quite a bit lately. I've been there. I will be again. It's cyclical. There will be times that sparks fly from your keyboard. There will be times you will be bone-dry and not able to write a grocery list. There are always going to be hills and valleys. The trick is to start changing the sine curve; making the hills last longer and the valleys be shallower and shorter.

Your greatest foe is yourself; that awful pull to just read comics or watch the Colts game or do anything else but write, because that voice inside of you will keep telling you that nobody will read it, nobody will care, so why waste your time. And even when you have some modest measure of success the voice never quiets, and I suspect that if I asked my heroes William Goldman and Michael Tolkin they would say the same.

When I'm really stuck I try to change up what I do; listen to music I don't listen to, watch foreign movies, seek out new writers, try new things; hoping to dislodge what's stuck and start working again, even with that voice talking in my ear.

I hope this helps.

Give me a shout at


Pete Bauer said...

I can never write when I want to write. I can only write when I'm inspired to. Sometimes, that's damn inconvenient.

The Furnace said...

I'm with Pete - sometimes it just hits me. What I've been trying lately with some success is a reference to the Kevin Costner baseball movie "For Love of the Game." When he's pitching he uses the mantra "Clear the mechanism." It allows him to silence everything around him and focus only on the strike zone. So I've been finding a nice quiet place, closing my eyes, saying that, and just letting ideas come to me. I know, sounds dorky, but worthy a try.