A Fear of Failure, A Fear of Success (hello blank page, my old frienemy)

There is a reason why they say that you must write everyday. But do you want to know a secret? It is not just because practice makes perfect, no, if only it were that easy. It is because time can make the tiniest hill feel like a mountain. When you hide from your words for so long, your tools become rusty and old. They do not flow as freely as they once did, your syllables squeak as they bend and pull along the line of their sentences. This tiny daily task becomes daunting and unwieldy. Suddenly you find yourself staring at this blank page, desperately needing a profound spark of genius to make it all feel worthwhile, to make it feel like you didn’t waste weeks of your life on nothing.

Stagnation; that is the fear. You are Sisyphus with your chosen art form- you push and you push every day, but if you slip- you must start back at the bottom with your damned rock. It is perhaps made even more difficult because you have seen the view from those higher peaks. You know what you are capable of creating, and you know how hard it will be to get back to those lofty places.

This is why the best advice any writer will ever give you is to simply write. Write everything, all day every day. Write out two lines on a sticky note at your desk between phone calls, pull out your journal when you get home, dictate a few sentences in the notes on your phone. But whatever you do, don’t stop. Don’t take a couple of days off- even if you only write for two minutes: do those two minutes, toss every brain cell you have at them.

Refining your craft and discovering your voice is a lot like working out. You may have the grand vision of your best seller in your mind, you may know all of the key plot points to hit along the way. But, just like a marathon, you can’t go out there and do your best work if you haven’t been training. You might finish, but it won’t have that spark you envisioned, the elements that makes it stand out above the rest. It will be missing an integral component: the true voice of the creator, unshackled and free.

It took me a year of daily writing (especially when I didn’t want to) to find my voice, to discover the flow of the syllables and the tempo of my paragraphs. It took only a fraction of that time to let the voice fade. I expect it will take me another year to get those muscles back in shape. But if you love it- then it’s worth it. I will push that boulder up the mountain once again; wiser because I’ve done this before, stronger because I know what I am capable of creating- and I was so damn proud of it.

So I sit here and I stare at the blank page that is refusing to back down. But instead of putting it away with a sigh and an “I’ll try again tomorrow when I have the energy,” I start writing. And it’s clunky, it’s hard, it’s unforgiving- it isn’t particularly good. But with each word a little rust chips away. Here’s the beautiful secret of a blank page: it won’t judge you for what you decorate it with, it will simply be pleased that you took the time to adorn it with a crown of your own making.

Stood Up By My Muse (Again)

The muse is a fickle creature, one minute inspiring you to ignore the entire universe and feverishly write without thought of food or personal care, then next moment she traipses away like smoke in the wind, leaving you land locked and unsure. If there is a way to force her attendance, I have not discovered it yet. She is a flighty creature, and will come and go as she sees fit. Unfortunatly, she usually picks the most inopporitune times to strike: when I am busy at work, in the shower, or out living my daily life (unfortunately, the groceries have not yet figured out how to buy themselves and walk home).

And yet when I plan out my night, fully expecting her to join me for a romantic computer-lit date filled with witty quips and shocking plot twists- she is nowhere to be found. I am left to type away all on my own, with only the slightest hint of inspiration to keep me trudging through the words to reach my daily goal. I have realized over the years that she is the flaky friend you cannot wait on, because if you do, you will find yourself simply spinning in circles.

So what do you do when your muse stands you up yet again? You can go for a walk, run around the block and hope you attract her attention. But after a while you open your laptop (or notebook, per your preference), take a deep breath and start writing. The muse waits for no one- but if she is to magically appear, she ought to find you working. It is the one thing that might attract her. It’s hard to continue typing away when you have no real fire burning inside of you, when you have to pry every word from your fingertips and paste them to the page. But you do it anyway, because as writers we are that kind of crazy. You write, and you slog through, and in a few weeks when you begin your editing- you wont know which scenes she had been present for, and which ones you fought for all on your own.

Writing is not easy, we don’t do it because it is simple. We do it because there is a story inside of us that must see the light of day before it drives us mad. When the muse decides to grace you with her presence, take advantage of that, write feverishly, stay up late, immerse yourself in the words pouring from your soul. And when she is gone, don’t stop. That flighty fiend will always find a way back to you when you least expect it. Writing is the surest way to draw her back in.

I’m not saying to push it when every fiber of your being needs a break- by all means, take the time you need to recharge. Go for a walk, take a shower, read a book, watch a show, bake something- recharge your batteries. But if she still hasn’t arrived- run and jump, dive back into your story and reach your goals. You can do it, even without her- you are a spectacular writer. Just remember that.