When Your Muse Leaves the Building…

I’ve been feeling very unmotivated lately. I’d say there are reasons, but for the most part (like 70%), they’re just excuses. No matter how many times I berate myself, I still find myself on the couch, staring at Jenson Ackles as Dean Winchester (I’d blame him–he is too pretty to ignore–but I know better).

In case you didn’t hear, several areas in my state and surrounding areas were without power for days. Luckier than most, my power came back after 4 days. (I’d like to take a moment and state that I’m a spoiled wuss–I need power: lights, a/c, TV, a working fridge. Having to carry a flashlight every time I had to pee got REAL old, fast.) I couldn’t type a damn thing. We got power back and then one of my/JLo’s best friends got married; since JLo was in the wedding party, that took me away for 3 days. So by this point, it’s been well over a week since I’d added any new material to my WIP. But even before we went to a temporary Dark Ages era, I’d been slacking on getting new words down. I couldn’t focus and when I did sit down to write, the words refused to flow. Frustrating. As. Hell.

I’ll admit that while I had no computer those 4 days, I did take a few hours one evening to set my mind with pen and paper on my male lead, using my “character layering” technique. I got some decent development in, realized a few new things about him and how he ticks, and now like him even more. But I haven’t touched any of the actual WIP. I found myself staring out the window or suddenly finding other things to do, like laundry or reading.

Funny Cry for Help Ecard: That moment when you have so much stuff to do, that you decide to take a nap instead.

I have a full time job, a great gig that not only pays the bills, but lets me throw my creativity around as the in-house “social media expert.” I’m on the computer from 8-5, Monday-Friday and while it’s certainly not a complaint against my job, I gotta admit the last thing I want to do when I get home after work is stare at my computer screen for another 3-4 hours. So that left me braindead on the couch with marathons of Supernatural, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s certainly not doing me any favors on getting a book written.

So. There’s the excuses, outta the way. My problem is motivation. My problem is that if I miss a couple days, I think it’s okay to miss a couple more. My problem is that I don’t hold myself accountable, despite my big talk of holding myself to deadlines, because they’re just MY deadlines and no one else’s.Β  Despite people asking for more books, despite my pride in the fact that I wrote a freaking book, despite my desire to get all these stories out of my head and out for the world to see…I’m still avoiding sitting at the desk. And I have no one to blame but myself. No one will write the damn things for me. And if I sit on my hands and don’t release anything for months and years because of it, I’ll be forgotten, no matter how many times I tweet about that one stupid book from a hundred years ago.

How do we, as authors, overcome laziness or writer’s block or a general lack of motivation? What happens when your Muse leaves the building? When the WIP is in danger of becoming a discarded manuscript, how can we shake our funk off and jump back into our world-building?

I’ve read several suggestions. Some say to get the heck outta Dodge (or your house) and observe people. When you’re at a loss for dialogue or reactions, go sit in a coffee shop or whatever and discreetly eavesdrop (don’t get caught looking like a stalker. It’s embarrassing for everyone). Besides eavesdropping, there are other ways we can shake it up–going for a workout, taking a scenic walk or bike ride around town, having a drink with friends, etc. I think the key is taking a step away from your WIP, even for a few hours, to get a different mindset, to take a mini-break (as opposed to the long vacation my mind’s taken the last few weeks) and get a new outlook on things. For me, I need to look at everything I have to do in stages and make a few lists. (One for everyday, one for the marketing plans, one for the actual WIPs, etc.) I think once I see everything that HAS to get done ASAP, then everything that must come after that, I’ll at least feel more focused and will hopefully feel more motivated to sit down at the desk again. After lists come schedules of how I can best use my time wisely. Once I schedule my time, then I can add in the free time for reading or drooling over Jenson Ackles.

What do y’all do when your muse leaves the building? When you’re feeling lazy and uninspired and have a hard time putting words on paper?

14 thoughts on “When Your Muse Leaves the Building…

  1. Erica (@ericaslens) says:

    Make your deadlines not just your deadlines. Post them on your blog/facebook/twitter for the world to see. For example, “Dear Internet World, I’m going to get three chapters done in the next two weeks.” Even if they’re still YOUR deadlines, you’ll either go back to your blog and say “Woo! I just killed three chapters!” or “Sooo I couch-lazed after work everyday for two weeks while my characters talked to me in my head.” You’re more likely to hold yourself accountable if you have people to report to.

    (Hence why I post all of my marathon training online for the world to see. Even if no one actually cares how my latest long run went, at least I know it’s out there for the world to see. I’d rather them see my awesomeness than my excuses.)

    Also, I’m probably going to keep bugging you about Book #2 since I’m not in your head and can’t know what Lucy is up to until you write it. And maybe I want to work with you on another book cover.

  2. Suzy Turner says:

    Sometimes we just need time away from our WIPs! For me, a good dose of Supernatural helps get my creative juices flowing. That, and spending an hour or so on Pinterest looking for images that match my book!

  3. Ryan Casey says:

    Great post Liz, I’ll definitely be retweeting it.

    As for ‘invoking my muse’, I know it sounds simple, but I often find just getting on with the work helps. The ‘idea’ of being unmotivated seems to far outweigh the actual process a lot of the time, I feel.

    • LizLong says:

      I’ve seen that suggestion too! And I agree–sometimes it’s about literally forcing myself to sit down and work. My procrastination knows few bounds, though, so that trick only works a few times a year πŸ˜‰

  4. ginnylurcock says:

    If you figure it out, let me know… I’ve spent nearly a week looking at an open word file going “eventually words will show up here, right?” I blame our Burn Notice marathon though *shifty*

  5. Zen says:

    I actually ignore the paper when that happens and distract myself from it entirely, either by reading or watching TV or something like that. Anything to take my mind off!

    • LizLong says:

      That’s what I do, too, step away completely! The only problem is dragging myself back to the computer πŸ˜‰ Anyone know how to shut a brain off for a couple hours?!

  6. Patrick Ross says:

    As you know, Liz, I just reached out for advice on this myself, so all I can say is that we’ll both get through this. As I learn more about you, I have every confidence your muse doesn’t think she’s left, she’s just waiting for you to notice her.

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