Myth of the Muse

All the hoopla about my French deal has settled down a bit so back to business today. Let's talk about something that always tickles my funny bone: the Muse.

I had someone tell me, after I'd started selling well with my ebooks, that they craft memorable fiction rather than "crank it out" the way I do.

This person has one published book that isn't selling well at all. This writer went on to explain that he/she (no hints as to the identity) could only produce a book every few years because he/she wrote only when inspired--at the pleasure of the Muse. You know, that mystical, magical entity who whispers our books into our ears so that all we have to do is transcribe the soft utterances.

Pardon Me While I Laugh

I've known a lot of writers in my career, and I do mean a lot. Those who actually succeed in creating careers that produce a respectable income know that their writing is not dependent on some Muse. After all, the Muse only exists in Greek mythology.

Those writers I've known who talk about writing when the Muse or inspiration moves them never manage to create a genuine writing career. Sure, one needs a spark of inspiration that makes one think: "Hey, that's a great idea for a book."

However, one cannot depend on inspiration in the day in-day out grind of writing a book. Often, after one gets past the exciting beginning, the book does become a grind to get through the middle--or the muddle as many curse it--to the glorious two words: The End.

Writing Biz Reality

A lot of beginning writers want to write books. At least that's what they tell me and anyone else with a heartbeat who will listen. I know some who wants to get paid for freelance writing, but she hasn't actually tried to get any jobs. She hasn't written any spec articles to place in a portfolio of samples. Just like some self-labeled novelists I've known who haven't sat down and consistently produced pages of writing because they can only write when the Muse inspires them.

Fantasy vs. Reality

These writers who depend on the Muse have an unrealistic view of writing as a career if they think you only write when you're inspired. Ask any writer--freelance or novelist--who has signed a contract if that's how they work. They'll tell you--as soon as they finish laughing, or maybe groaning--that the business doesn't work that way. If you're under contract, you don't wait for the Muse to pay you a visit. You write whether you're inspired or not.

But, wait, you say. I haven't signed a contract. I'm an indie author so I can finish a book whenever I like. Ha! If you haven't made a contract with yourself--setting a deadline by which your next book will be finished--you're just kidding yourself.

Universal Truth

There's one law of the universe that you need to learn. A project expands to fill the time allotted. I'm sure I didn't create that aphorism, but I certainly have experienced it in my own life whether it's cleaning out the garage or writing a 75,000 word novel.

What happens if you don't set a deadline? The "why rush, I've got plenty of time" syndrome kicks into action. Hey! You've got all the time in the world so you can take today off. And maybe the whole week--or month. When six months have passed and you've got nada to show for it, writer's malaise sets in. The longer you don't work on the project; the harder it gets to tackle it again. Or the project expands and drags on and on and on until you're so bored with it that you'd rather wash windows and polish the silverware than write.

Be Your Own Boss & Be A Mean SOB

If you don't set a deadline, your book may never get finished, or it may take you so long to write one that your eager fans forget who you are. You must write consistently, and you must finish what you write in a timely fashion if you are to have a shot at success.

If you have a day job that's not writing, say you work in an office, if you're depressed, tired, and weepy, do you call in sick? Probably not.

If writing is your job and you feel all those negative emotions, do you call in sick to yourself? You shouldn't. You have to meet a daily quote and power through. Sure, what you write may be crap, but crap can be edited and made better. A blank page or monitor screen can't.

Got a deadline and got a cold? You write. Tired and sleep-deprived? You write. Don't know what this scene or even this chapter is about? You still write. Sure, there are times that are exceptions to my "write consistently/produce pages" rule, but, for the most part, I write consistently. Day after day.

Adopt A Work Ethic

Writers, if you want to be successful, adopt the work ethic of your peers out in the job force. Sure, writing looks easy--until you try it. Writing is hard mentally and physically. It's not a job for wusses. Those who write do so because they can't imagine doing anything else, but make no mistake.

Writing demands the same kind of dedication as careers in teaching or accounting or any other job. If you're a teacher, and you're tired and sleepy, you don't sleep in. You go to school and teach. If you're an accountant, and you're tired of the same old grind, day in and day out, you don't skip work and go to the ball game or a spa. You go to the office at your appointed time.

Do you get the idea? You need to establish a writing quota, and you need to put your butt in the computer chair at the appointed time and write. As a writer, you're lucky in that you decide exactly when you must place your butt in the chair and how long you must keep it there.

Develop a plan today, and set a deadline. Be disciplined and create on a consistent schedule.

Takeaway Truth

Quit waiting for the Muse. If you have a great idea, then the Muse has moved on. The rest is up to you. Discipline and consistency are the cornerstones of writing success. That's where the real magic lies--in you.


  1. Here, here, and amen!

    Even if you don't have a contract with a publisher, your readers will call on the table as well. Listening to the Muse is nice, but listening to the people who pay you to know 'what happens next' is more important.

  2. Suzan Harden... Thanks for the amen. Right back at you for your comment! Very true.

  3. You're so right and you said it so well!