Don’t Wait For Your Muse To Strike. You’ll Wait Forever.

by | March 28, 2013 | General | 7 comments

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of
genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the
Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats.

I recently read an
article about the daily routines of famous writers,
and it made me wonder about muses. Some writers, especially novice writers,
occasionally say that they must wait for their muse to inspire them. The
problem is that waiting for your muse to give you a kick in the pants means
you’ll wait forever, and you won’t get any writing done. E. B. White said:
“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die
without putting a work on paper.” The actual day-to-day routine of writing
isn’t nearly as glamorous as suddenly feeling a lightning bolt of inspiration
from your muse, jolting your creativity awake and sending you to your computer,
hands busily typing away until The Masterpiece is born. It requires setting
goals, making a routine, and establishing a support network.

MAKING GOALS

Have you made yearly
goals for yourself? What do you hope to accomplish this year in your writing
career? You do treat your writing like a vocation, don’t you? If you want to be
taken seriously as a writer, you must take writing seriously. Don’t treat it as
a hobby if you intend to make real progress. That means making goals and
establishing a routine. Sounds dull? Maybe, but it works. That’s the reality of
being a writer. It’s not all absinthe parties and movie contracts.

Make goals. List
five things you want to accomplish this year as a writer. Which projects do you
intend to finish? Are you aiming for specific markets and publishers? Would you
like to self-publish? You need to pin down a few workable, realistic goals for
the year. My workable, realistic goals for this year are to finish my erotic
novel “Alex Craig Has A Threesome”, write one human sexuality article
every two weeks for a company that just hired me, write my blog posts
(including my monthly one for ERWA), submit several short stories to good
anthologies (both erotic and dark fantasy), and work on promoting my
self-published books as well as write at least one more (for now). Those are
laudable goals for one year. They are specific. You can pin them down. They
aren’t ephemera floating about your muse’s head.

ESTABLISH A ROUTINE

Once you have goals,
you must meet them. That means work. Establish a routine, even if your schedule
seems impossible. It isn’t. There is always a moment you can find for writing
and achieving your goals.

Joan Didion’s
routine interested me because it’s similar to mine. In a 1968 interview, she
said the following:

I need an hour alone before dinner, with a
drink, to go over what I’ve done that day. I can’t do it late in the afternoon
because I’m too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the
pages. So I spend this hour taking things out and putting other things in. Then
I start the next day by redoing all of what I did the day before, following
these evening notes.

I don’t wait for my
muse to inspire me. I have a set routine that I try to follow every day. I work
best in the mornings, being a lark (definitely not a night owl). I start my day
by brewing a pot of coffee, turning on some ambient music like Brian Eno or
nature sounds to music like Dan Gibson and Tony O’Connor, and I read and answer
my email. Then I check Facebook. I stay there for about a half hour, reading,
posting, promoting, and waking up as I drink my coffee. By that time it’s about
7 am. I then work on either an article, a blog post, or a story for one to
three hours. Sometimes I multi-task and work on all three, one hour each. By
noon, I finish that portion of my day, and I enjoy lunch with the occasional
glass of wine or champagne. Then I begin the second half of my day. Afternoons
I devote to research, more article and blog writing, and sex toys reviews. If
I’m working on a fiction story, I may go over what I had done the previous day.
I, like Didion, cannot go over what I had written that morning because I’m too
close to it. I need some distance. So 24 to 48 hours gives me enough distance
so that my judgment isn’t clouded when I look over my work. I then do the exact
same thing the next day – I play Tetris with my writing; move things here,
rewrite things there.

I’m aware of how
lucky I am to make a living writing, and I know most writers aren’t that
fortunate. They have day jobs, children to tend to, spouses that need
attention. They’re exhausted and over-extended. Still, a writer must write.
We’re driven. Find a time every day to write, even if it’s only for fifteen
minutes. Use that fifteen minutes well. You’d be surprised how much progress
you can make in a mere fifteen minutes.

Each writer’s
routine is a personal matter. What works for me most likely won’t work for you,
and vice-versa. You must find your own routine and become familiar with your
inner, day-to-day clock. Carry a notebook and pen around with you, and write
down any inspiring observations or thoughts that come to mind during the day
lest you forget them by the time you are sitting in front of your computer.

Another way to
establish a routine is to go by word count rather than time. I don’t usually
aim for a specific amount of writing time because my days vary. I aim for a
minimum of 1,000 words per day in a short story or longer work and 300 per day in an article. Writing
according to word count is one good way to get your voice out there. If you
can’t muster 1,000 words per day, try for 500. Or 100. Each writer sets
different goals depending on the busyness of his of her life.

ESTABLISH A SUPPORT
NETWORK

Part of a writer’s
routine that may be somewhat neglected is to establish a support network.
Considering the volatile nature of writing and publishing, all writers need
support, and that support may come from friends, online colleagues, and family.
Not all erotica writers are fortunate enough to have supportive friends and
families. Some of my Facebook colleagues have told me stories of how their
spouses, children, and friends do not take their vocation seriously, especially
because they write erotica and erotic romance. They have been judged and met
with disapproval over their choice to write erotic literature. Find at least
one good friend you can fall back on when you get yet another rejection, when
your family snubs you, or your new book isn’t selling. Please do not suffer alone.
A support network is vital for your emotional and mental health. Also turn to
your support network when things are going well. It’s good to have someone to
crow to when you get an acceptance, you win an award, or you finally snag that
agent.

As writers, we often
get so caught up in our daily lives and dreams that we don’t set workable goals
or take the time to plan ahead, meet deadlines, and treat our writing like the
job it is. Once you break down your writing into goals, a routine, and a
support network, you are well on your way to enjoying the path on which writing
takes you.

ABOUT ELIZABETH BLACK

Elizabeth Black
writes erotica, erotic romance, speculative fiction, fantasy, and dark fiction.
She also enjoys writing erotic retellings of classic fairy tales. Born and bred
in Baltimore, she grew up under the influence of Edgar Allan Poe. Her erotic
fiction has been published by Xcite Books (U. K.), Circlet Press, Ravenous
Romance, Scarlet Magazine (U. K.), and other publishers. Her dark fiction has
appeared in “Kizuna: Fiction For Japan”, “Stupefying
Stories”, “Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2”, “Zippered
Flesh 2: More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone Bad”, and “Mirages:
Tales From Authors Of The Macabre”. An accomplished essayist, she was the
sex columnist for the pop culture e-zine nuts4chic (also U. K.) until it folded
in 2008. Her articles about sex, erotica, and relationships have appeared in
Good Vibrations Magazine, Alternet, CarnalNation, the Ms. Magazine Blog, Sexis
Magazine, On The Issues, Sexy Mama Magazine, and Circlet blog. She also writes
sex toys reviews for several sex toys companies.

In addition to
writing, she has also worked as a gaffer (lighting), scenic artist, and make-up
artist (including prosthetics) for movies, television, stage, and concerts. She
worked as a gaffer for “Die Hard With A Vengeance” and “12
Monkeys”. She did make-up, including prosthetics, for “Homicide: Life
On The Street”. She is especially proud of the gunshot wound to the head
she had created with makeup for that particular episode. She also worked as a
prosthetic makeup artist specializing in cyanotic blue, bruises, and buckets of
blood for a test of Maryland’s fire departments at the Baltimore/Washington
International Airport plane crash simulation test. Yes, her jobs are fun.
 😉

She lives in
Lovecraft country on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four
cats. The ocean calls her every day, and she always listens. She has yet to run
into Cthulhu.

Visit her web
site at http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com/

Her Facebook
page is https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

Follow her at
Twitter: http://twitter.com/ElizabethABlack

Elizabeth Black

Elizabeth Black's erotic fiction has been published by Cleis Press, Xcite Books, Scarlet Magazine, Circlet Press, and others. She also writes dark fiction and horror as E. A. Black. She lives in Massachusetts next to the ocean with her husband, son, and three cats. The beach calls to her and she listens.

7 Comments

  1. Fiona McGier

    "I'm aware of how lucky I am to make a living writing, and I know most writers aren't that fortunate. They have day jobs, children to tend to, spouses that need attention. They're exhausted and over-extended."

    You got that right! I loved being an at-home mom to my 4 kids, even if I was always working 2 p/t jobs to help with the bills when their Dad was home. But now I'm trapped forever in minimum-wage p/t jobs, and the bills are even bigger while 2 are still in college!

    I had hoped that my writing would allow me to quit one of the jobs…maybe the one that has me standing on my feet for hours on concrete floors. Alas…

    I write when I can stay awake, or if by a fluke I'm not working both jobs in the same day. As you say, writers must write. I spend a lot of time wondering if I should just get another p/t job that would pay regular wages, but that would mean giving up my dream and my writing.
    Each day I wrestle with that, and each time I get a so-so or bad review, I'm convinced I should stop fooling myself that I can write. Then I get a good review and I'm back at my laptop again.

  2. Elizabeth Black

    I hear you, Fiona. My son is out of school now so I don't have that to deal with. I used to be a political writer, and I had the same hectic schedule you have. I know I'm lucky that I don't have to deal with that anymore. Yes, writers must write. I don't know a writer who doesn't fall and then bounce back between good and bad reviews. It's like a roller coaster ride that never ends.

  3. Naughty Nights Press (NNP); Gina Kincade; Mistress Journals

    Awesome article and great advice, Elizabeth!
    As a single mom to three boys, C.E.O of Naughty Nights Press and a writer, I'd be lost without my schedule! The structure and planning of the little hours in the day available to me is crucial. There was a time, until recently, where I gave up my writing to tend to my publishing company and other writers instead but found I missed it in my life, needed it in fact. As you say, we are driven, compelled to write and setting schedules and goals is a key element to the success of any writing career. I'm so glad to have resumed my writing recently and will never put it aside in favor of anything again. I lost myself, who I was when I pushed it off.
    Want to know what got me moving? An incredible opportunity to be part of an erotic anthology called Shifting Gears with two other excellent writers, Shelby Morgen and Rian Monaire! Watch for its release on April 1st! I'm so excited to be back!

  4. Elizabeth Black

    Thanks, Gina! You certainly have structure down to a science. I'm glad you found a balance between writing and running a publishing company. That can't be easy to do. And congrats on "Shifting Gears"!

  5. Jean Roberta

    Very sensible advice, Elizabeth! This inspires me to schedule more time for my writing between home and day-job obligations. Faith in oneself and support seem to be the key, especially for writers in a largely undervalued and misunderstood field. Your bio is fascinating. (I'm sure I read a shorter bio of you somewhere, and it didn't have this much meat.) Some time you should prob. devote a blog post to a summary of your life, or some of the highlights.

  6. Elizabeth Black

    Thanks, Jean Roberta. I may write a post about my own background sometime. I'm so glad my post inspired you to make more time for writing. I ended up testing my own post today. The words just wouldn't come, so I forced them out. All of a sudden while I was writing, things just clicked. I ended up writing appx. 1,200 words. They may not be the best 1,200 words, but they're a start. I've read it's best to get something down. Anything. You can edit later. It's like riding a bike. You never forget.

  7. Lisabet Sarai

    Excellent advice, Elizabeth!

    Just a reminder to all, thought, that every one of us is different. I agree with Elizabeth's general point – the Muse just isn't going to do anything if you don't get your butt in the chair. However, if you happen to be less organized about your writing life, don't beat yourself up about it. Each of us has to discover, through trial and error, what works in conjunction with our own lives, responsibilities, and preferences.

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