Monday, May 4, 2015

How to Believe in Yourself as a Writer (In 3 Easy Steps)

There comes a time in every writer's life when they begin to doubt the validity of their choices. They wonder why they ever embarked on the journey of creating and publishing books and, as one waking from a dream, they face the sudden realization that they are an awful storyteller and they can't write worth beans.

Of course, this isn't so much a realization as a slap in the face from the evil anti-spirits of art, who want you to believe all of this is true. It isn't. But in order to retrieve the tatters of your confidence, you (like protagonists from the dawn of time) must find a way to overcome the obstacles in your mental path and thus win back the castle and save the distressed prince.

The method we're outlining today takes its inspiration from guided meditation. I say this to distinguish it from the Make Writerly Friends Who Will Encourage You method or the Just Keep Writing method, or even the Take A Break And Enjoy Your Life method, all of which are efficacious in their own right.

Step 1: Envision your muse.

Every artist has a muse. That's the little art-sprite who sits on your shoulder and makes mischief. The muse never does what you want her to. Dressed like a nineteenth century schoolgirl, she shows up when she wants to and leaves too early. She dumps an entire novel into your brain when you have thirty minutes, and falls asleep when you give her the whole day.

She is vital to this process, though. Not just the writing process, but the feeling-okay-as-a-writer process. She is your other half. Nonsensical sentences, stilted dialogue, flat characters, and plot holes the size of Jupiter are at least 50% her fault. Don't be too hard on yourself for story problems: blame that bad chapter on the rogue imp who tore up your office the other day.

Moreover, the fact that you have her (even if she's floating in dizzy circles after having a bit too much to drink) means that you're a real writer. It means that you can do this. It also means you can't ever, ever stop. Throw down the pen and she'll fill your brain with so many stories you go completely crazy in a matter of days. See if I'm wrong. I dare you.

Picture her, now at your elbow, now pirouetting through your computer screen, ready to write (at least as much as a cat is ready to be walked). She has not abandoned you. Well, she may have, but if you glue your butt in your chair and hold very still while typing, she might just alight and bring the fairy dust.

Remember that. You can't not be a writer if you have a muse.

Step 2: See the negative.

Just as there is matter and anti-matter, so muses have their inverse. The art anti-spirits butcher stories with their false advice (they manage all the fake twitter accounts that spew nonsense), lose the best-written pages to sudden power outages, ensure every book gets a hate-filled Amazon review, and rejoice when copyright is infringed. Kings of unwarranted self-criticism, they will do anything to stop you from doing the good work, especially ruining morale.

Envision that dark blob writhing around maliciously just behind your right ear. He's just as mischievous as the muse, but far more dastardly in his intentions, and you need to keep your eye on him. He will do anything to see art go uncreated. Beware of him. Learn to tell him apart from that sometimes-flippant, always-hypercreative muse of yours, and avoid him.

Step 3: Set the scene.

As you're sitting there, blank page before you, cursor blinking insistently, picture the nasty inkblot anti-spirit swishing away. It disappears into the darkness from whence it came. Who's going to listen to him? You won't. You're too smart for that. And you've got this muse, hovering above your left eyebrow, whispering something about time-travelling mailmen and a magical parakeet with aspirations to rule the world...

Are you picturing it? Do you feel her there, ready to start helping you on your novel? Can you feel the voices of criticism hissing away like popping bubbles, the sound of soda going flat? Good. Now go, oh writer, and write.

When at the end of the day the words just won't come anymore, it's not your fault. It just means the muse has shut up for now. You should probably go eat and shower and say hi to your family, and all that stuff you've forgotten the last few weeks, because she's almost certainly going to start up again when it's least convenient for you.

You are a writer and the anti-spirits of art can't touch you.

Word count: 791.