The Mood to Write, and other mythical ideas

So I’ve been struggling lately to get back into a writing routine. I took a bit of time off after I burned myself out with a technically-victorious but personally unsatisfying National Novel Writing Month in November (or NaNoWriMo if yo’ nasty), and spent the darkest days of winter laying some stronger foundations for the year ahead. Then The Holidays happened, and us kids found out we had a long-lost half-brother (no, I’m not joking), and I was severely distracted for a while. Anyway, the point is I’m trying to get back into writing again and it is HARD.

I didn’t expect it to be easy. I’ve been writing like the wind for years now, and I know that it takes huge effort to discipline yourself into writing. But I’m re-training myself to have that kind of discipline again, even though it’s still dark and cold outside, and I’m still sleepy and wanting to hibernate. And it got me thinking, as I was cracking down on myself this morning, telling myself “damn it you’re going to write those 3 pages today, tomorrow, and the next…” about all the times I have decided not to write because I wasn’t “in the mood.” Or all the millions of times I’ve heard people say “I can only write when I’m inspired.”

Well, that’s bullshit.

Writing is not something that happens because a Muse comes down from Olympus and blows us full of ideas. Yes, we can be inspired to write, and have moments, days, even weeks when we’re thrilled to sit down at the page every day and cry a little when we have to put away the word processor or pen. But in most cases, while we might think about writing all day, and daydream about our characters and stories, and we “can’t wait to write today,” when the time comes we have to drag ourselves away from every single tiny distraction that we can possibly use to keep us away from the page. We struggle to plunk ourselves down and force ourselves to write. And an amazing thing happens then. If we can force ourselves to focus, to not check Facebook or answer the phone or start making grocery lists, at about 500 words (small potatoes!) the inspiration comes to us. We find ourselves nudged forward by a playful gust of creativity, ready to sweep us up in the fire.

And inspiration- it is fire, a fire that burns brightly when we give it fuel. The fuel itself is action- is writing. For another artist, it might be practicing instruments, sketching, singing, but for writers, if we want to find inspiration we need to show the Muse that we’re responsible parents, that we’ll take care of our brain children, that ideas are safe with us.

So next time you (or I) find yourself avoiding the sometimes-not-so-easy joy of writing because your mood isn’t right, or the gods of literature just aren’t on your side that day? Sit down, turn off your phone, disconnect the internet, and write.

As one of my favorite novels (Dune, by Frank Herbert) says: “Mood is a thing for cattle and women- mood is not for fighting.” Well word warriors? Just DO IT!

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