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IWSG: A Whole Lot of Why

April 3, 2013

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s time, once again, for the Insecure Writers to unite and encourage each other. If you’d like to join the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, all you have to do is click on this linky and add your name to the list. Alex J. Cavanaugh has hosted this group years now, and I can assure you, there is no nicer group of writers on the web.

In the past month, I’ve had a lot of insecurity about why it is that I’m driven to write. When I see everyone around me rushing to publish, and all I read is about the many ways to bring readers to my words, it sometimes freaks me out a little. Is this really the reason I write? Or is there an even more important reason I keep coming back to my words? As I often do, I discussed the matter with my alter-ego Muse, and found answers that surprised me.Image courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng

I come home to an empty house and the Muse is waiting. He watches me get ready to write as I pour my Pepsi and sort my bills. He’s humming in the back of my head. He has something to tell me.

I open my laptop. Since I haven’t done my morning words today, I decide to write what I please for a while.

The Muse rests his chin on his interlaced hands, doing his best Brandon Lee impression. “Glad you’re back,” he says without a trace of irony in his voice.

Ink Blot 2“I’ll always come back,” I type. But I know he’s had doubts.

“Thought so,” he says, hiding his misgivings. “So tell me, what’s eating you?”

“It’s all the commotion about publishing. Everyone’s publishing, and if they’re not publishing, they’re at least critiquing, exchanging manuscripts, blogging a novel … Sometimes I feel as if it’s all about who can get their words to the most people the fastest.”

He points at the title at the top of my blog to remind me. “I worry sometimes,” he says.

“What? You worry? You’re a Muse. You’re completely made up, a figment of my overactive imagination, less substantial than feathers and moonbeams.”

He looks at the ground, his shoulders sag and his wings droop. “That’s just it,” he mutters. “For the longest time you never even noticed me.”

My fingers stall on the keyboard as I remember. I had a dry spell so long I thought my words were an abandoned planet, without air, without water or sign of life. I wanted to be a writer way back in high school. I took classes and read craft books, but ultimately made the wise choice—

“Which was?” the Muse asks to prompt me to talk to him, instead of ruminating endlessly.

“I live in a safe neighborhood; I have a great job. I can sleep without worrying about where I will end up a few years from now.”Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng

“But something’s missing?”

“You bet something was missing. I felt mute, empty, adrift. But I didn’t know why.”

“Should I remind you of why?” the Muse asks. Though he will defend me to the last, his eyes burn with accusation.

“No, you don’t have to remind me of why. There’s a whole lot of why …” I take my hand off the keyboard to change the playlist. The Muse waits patiently and eases back from my desk once the song begins.

“You’re afraid of something,” he prompts.

 I hesitate, then type, “All this commotion about publishing reminds of what I felt like when I abandoned writing.”

Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng“How did you feel when you left writing?”

“I felt that what I had to say was unimportant, that my words were insignificant when compared to the great writers, and that if I didn’t have anything ‘important’ to say I should just shut up. I was certain that no one would be interested in what a girl who grew up in a quiet town in Wisconsin, who went camping and sailing and loved rock music, had to say.”

“What makes you think you’d feel that way again?” He folds his hands across his chest and the corners of his mouth turn serious as he tries to imitate a shrink.

“Well—” I pause as I try to visualize him and write down his body language. “A lot of writers have advice on building a brand, on how to reach readers, on how best to market a book, on how to escalate a plot, on how to keep adverbs at bay …”

“So?” the Muse asks. “That’s all good stuff, and I’m happy to help you with all that.”

“You have no idea how much I appreciate the offer. But that’s not what bothers me.”

“Then what does bother you?”

“That it stops being about the writing. I worry that I will find myself torn away from writing the next book. I’d rather just write. I need this for me. For you.”

The Muse purses his lips thoughtfully, and I cringe as another adverb pops up on my screen.Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng

“Can’t we do a bit of both?” he asks.

“I can try. But don’t you see? That’s why my blog has a destination name and not my real name? I don’t want this to be about me. It’s about the words.”

The Muse holds up his hand. “This is morning words so you can stop here. How about we take this up again tomorrow?”

“But tomorrow is IWSG day.”

“Then the next day. This isn’t a contest. This is for you.”

I close my laptop gratefully, confident that I’m not going to stop writing just yet.

Image courtesy of 'kuleczka' @ BigStock

How about you, insecure (and secure!) writers? What’s the why behind your words?

Related posts: What My Writing Teacher Should Have Told Me

Ten Days in the Life of a “Non-Writer” by Katherine Checkley

Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng,  and ‘kuleczka’ @ BigStock

  1. April 3, 2013 2:40 am

    yes, yes!!! THIS! Oh, totally, this! (can I go on?).

    I’ve been completely unable, ever, to do the Real Writer thing that I’m “supposed to be doing” if I’m going to be a Real Writer.

    It’s JUST the writing.

    Maybe someday there’ll be a different internally-directed prod, but I cannot care that it’s recommended to do anything about brand/market/gathering a following/researching publication outlets – or even thinking about those things. Going in that direction royally screws up everything.

    The cultivation of the creative relationship, the connecting with the source – that’s the pleasure, the point.

    I still struggle with some long-seated thing that says I have to prove my worth here on this planet, that I’m failing for not being the “next big thing,” for not being more productive and self-promotional and thereby popular. But the deeper, wiser part of me wants merely the act of creating.

    That’s who I’m trying to listen to.

    • April 3, 2013 8:27 am

      I’m so glad to learn that I’m not the only one who thinks this way!
      I’m really not opposed to self-promotion and all that, but it’s just that there is only so much time in my life, and I’d really like to spend most of it writing.
      Affirming this makes me (and my Muse 😉 ) very happy.

  2. April 3, 2013 3:42 am

    Many times I’ve said, that’s it! I can’t do it. I’m stopping this writing thing. – but then I can’t. I just can’t stop. I want to sit down and create stories. Stories for people to read.

    I love this post and I hope you do continue to write, whatever the reason.

    • April 3, 2013 8:29 am

      Thanks, Rebecca!
      Once in a while I need to reconnect with what drives this crazy impulse–and the best way to do that is, you guessed it, to write about it. 🙂 Glad you liked the post. There are many more like it!

  3. April 3, 2013 8:14 am

    We writers write, that’s what we do. Anytime I feel like stopping, I forgive myself, and just begin again the next day. Some days I’m not so forgiving, but that’s a story for another day.

    • April 3, 2013 2:04 pm

      Hi Damyanti,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!
      Definitely. 🙂 Not writing, no matter how long that might be, doesn’t change the fact of what we are. It’s taken me a while to accept that, but it’s a good place to be in. 🙂

  4. April 3, 2013 10:41 am

    Great post!

    What’s behind my words?
    The satisfaction and thrill that comes with creating something. Ultimately, the story nudging, sometimes screaming to be told. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t dream about holding a published book–my book–in my hands and knowing other people were doing that, too.

    • April 3, 2013 2:11 pm

      Thanks, Melissa 🙂
      Publication is a fragile dream of mine as well, but ultimately it is the words and the story, like you say, the act of creation that fulfills me most deeply.
      Maybe I’m afraid to embrace publication because much of whether or not it happens is under someone else’s control?
      Thanks for your comment. I think I just learned something about myself. 🙂

  5. April 3, 2013 11:37 am

    Right, I’ve probably said this about a billion times, but I had this dream. It was so amazing. I woke up feeling powerful in a way I never had before. I felt like I could do anything, because what I’d done in my dream the night before was beyond the call of duty. I was made of truly stronger stuff, and I could do anything.

    Then all day long, a little voice in my head said “but it was just a dream.”

    It might have been just a dream, but in my dream, I’d thought everything was lost. I’d thought I was going to die. I thought everything was about to be lights out forever, and I still made the right choice. I dug deep. I found the power to carry on. I did.

    And I realized that it was the journey that made me feel that way. That I would still be aglow if I’d read a story where that had happened.

    I wrote down the outline to that story during my lunch break, determined to turn it into a novel. I knew that if I could bring that feeling to one other person, just one, then I was doing good in the world. I haven’t stopped writing since.

    • April 3, 2013 2:19 pm

      Wow! I haven’t yet read about this dream of yours! That makes a lot of sense though, and would be exactly the kind of story I would love to read.

      I had something similar happen, but it was after I’d started writing. I dreamed one of the scenes in my story, one that I felt was beyond my capability to write because I’d never experienced anything like it. When I woke up I felt as if I’d lived it! I ran to my computer and wrote and wrote and wrote because I never wanted to forget what that felt like, even though it was quite a scary scene. Eventually, by the end of the day, I’d lost the feeling that it was real, sadly, but maybe someday that will happen to me again.

      Some writers say that happens to them all the time! To me, that has got to be writing nirvana.

      Cool story!

  6. April 3, 2013 12:15 pm

    What a great post! I love this convo between you and the Muse and it rings true. Sometimes, writing can feel like a race, but we need to slow down and enjoy the process, not rush to the finish product.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today. 🙂

    • April 3, 2013 2:22 pm

      Hi Natasha,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!
      I’ve become all about the process. Since so little in life seems to be guaranteed, one thing I know for sure is that when I sit down with my imagination it will be fun.
      I’m glad you liked the post, and that I discovered your blog through the IWSG. 🙂

  7. April 3, 2013 1:55 pm

    You nailed the problem. I’d forgotten the why – my characters. They are the people I would be if I could. They are so COOL, andI want them to live in the minds of as many readers as possible.

    It’s so true that in all the hurrah of publishing advice, techniques, importance of being seen and read, writing gets lost. In my hurry to submit queries, I’ve frozen and am unable to write a thing – except a tiny blog a day for A to Z. (At least that keeps my boots on the sand.)

    Also, my muse is hiding, or maybe he’s just exhausted from the revision and stress. Could I have my muse call your muse for advice? 🙂

    • April 3, 2013 2:27 pm

      Good for you on keeping boots in the sand! Showing up means a lot to a Muse. I know this from experience … 🙂
      Of course your Muse can give mine a buzz! He’s moved out of the cellar since his last meltdown and built himself a castle, so he loves guests. 😉

  8. April 3, 2013 4:30 pm

    I never got very discouraged until my book came out in January. Not my writing isn’t just part of who I am . . . it’s a job. Funny how it starts to suck the fun out of it, lol. But every time I want to give up b/c I can’t fit it all in, I get an email from a fan telling me my book inspired them in some way. That makes it all worth it. And OMG, totally forgot it was IWSG until I saw your post. Geesh . . . told you I couldn’t keep up anymore!

    • April 4, 2013 5:43 pm

      Receiving fan mail has got to be the best feeling ever! I know how great it feels when someone responds to these little posts–I can’t even imagine how it would thrill me to know that someone had loved my whole book! Now there’s a reason to publish I hadn’t considered yet. 🙂

      Wanna know a secret? I was almost ready to skip this month’s IWSG when I came upon this snippet of free writing with the Muse, and decided it would be perfect. 😉

  9. April 3, 2013 5:37 pm

    Great conversation. I love your Muse, he sounds like a cool guy.
    I had an acquaintance who LOVES to write, and she said she’s resistant to trying to do a book because then it wouldn’t be fun any more… Smart lady.
    If all you want to do is write, and not publish, I think that’s 100% valid. And if you ever change your mind, you’ll have a tonne of great material ready to polish.

    • April 4, 2013 5:51 pm

      Hi Pauline,
      I think your friend and I might have a lot to talk about! Does she perchance have a blog I could visit? 😉
      I think a lot of people equate writing being published as the only indication of its quality, when all you have to do is look at some of the bestsellers out there to realize that isn’t true!
      Nevertheless, I think I will eventually pursue publication, but not at the expense of losing the joy I find in writing. I’m learning that it is possible to both publish and write to be happy. 🙂

      Welcome to A Scenic Route!

  10. April 4, 2013 6:31 am

    Great post honey 🙂

    I wish i could have conversations like that with my muse.


    • April 4, 2013 5:53 pm

      Believe me, Vikki, it felt so weird the first time I wrote out these conversations with my Muse or the occasional character! But soon, I discovered it was so much fun, that I didn’t care any more. 🙂

  11. April 4, 2013 9:00 am

    It makes me giggle that WordPress picks for me down there, either FB or Twitter profiles. You know my blog, so I don’t have to put it here. Thank you, thank you so much for your sweet comment on my IWSG post. 😉 I loved your conversation with your Muse. He seems patient, kind, and encouraging. Do you loan him out? 🙂

    • April 4, 2013 6:00 pm

      LOL 🙂 Since the Muse is imaginary, I don’t see why he couldn’t pay you a visit, even though he gets a bit jealous when I don’t spend enough time with him. On the other hand, if you looked and listened you might even discover a Muse of your very own!

      As for my comment, I can always relate to the need for finding more time to work on a WIP. Good luck with yours!

  12. April 6, 2013 2:09 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂 Thanks for posting a link to my post on a very similar topic! I love what you said about people racing to publish, publish, publish. I think this is initially what brought me down these past couple of months. I’m just overwhelmed by it all sometimes! It’s good to know I’m not alone.

    • April 6, 2013 4:29 pm

      No you’re not alone!
      It’s odd to me that my desire to make something cool runs counter to my need to promote it. It almost feels selfish sometimes–as in this is for me, and I won’t share!
      But I will share eventually. It’s just that I think I need to understand when the timing is right.

  13. April 6, 2013 3:36 pm

    This is a very goofus question. I just signed up for IWSG. Do I just show up on the appointed day and log in to the forum – or what? 🙂

    • April 6, 2013 4:34 pm

      IWSG is super easy. Now that your blog is on the linky list, all you have to do is post your IWSG entry on the first Wednesday of the month (with links to IWSG to make it easier for visitors to hop back and forth), and start visiting other blogs on the list on that day. I shoot for about ten or so new ones, and then visit my regular buddies too. It’s quite a busy blogging day, but I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve ‘met’ some really cool writers this way. 🙂
      If you subscribe to Alex Cavanaugh’s posts he’ll remind you of the upcoming IWSG date so you don’t miss them. And it’s okay to miss one once in a while.

  14. April 8, 2013 8:27 am

    Hi Kirsten, this is the first time I have visited your blog and I loved both the content and the style of your writing. I only started blogging very recently after attending a self-publishing conference where we were encouraged to enter the world of social media, in other words to “promote” ourselves. Jumping in at the deep-end I immediately joined the A to Z challenge through which I have found some fascinating blogs about writing. The downside is that now I am finding it harder to set aside enough time to concentrate on my own book because these blogs about other people’s writing experiences and advice are so interesting to read. Inspired by your eloquent words I am searching for a muse on Amazon but no luck yet although so far I have only looked under “books”.

    • April 8, 2013 9:18 pm

      Hi Lynne,
      You’re making me smile. 🙂
      I’m so glad you stopped by A Scenic Route!
      I agree. Though I certainly don’t have a completed book to promote yet, I’ve found blogging to be incredibly fun–and addicting. I’ve resorted to setting aside a fixed amount of time to tend to it, and after that get back to writing and revising.
      And books are a great place to look for muses! They also seem to like pictures, music, walks in the woods, dark stormy nights, and in some cases, chocolate. 😉 Have fun finding yours!

  15. April 9, 2013 1:37 pm

    Hi Kirsten,
    A muse born of chocolate, sometimes dark and bitter, sometimes sweet and comforting; you have given me the perfect excuse for consuming more chocolate so I am forever in your debt. Thanks for stopping by my blog.


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