Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Thursday, March 28, 2013

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


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



7 comments:

  1. "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.

    ReplyDelete
  2. 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.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 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!

    ReplyDelete
  4. 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"!

    ReplyDelete
  5. 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.

    ReplyDelete
  6. 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.

    ReplyDelete
  7. 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.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.