Right now, in this month of November, NaNoWriMo is a huge deal for those who have always dreamed of someday completing a novel, or finally having a full manuscript in their hands (metaphorical hands, of course. Don’t print your novel yet. Save your money for a few rounds of editing)
As someone who’s been a professional fiction author for five years, I think I can dispense some wisdom on the subject.
More importantly, today I would like to talk about the dreaded “Inspiration” and the even more elusive “Muse” — two words are pure and utter bullshit.
If you watched my last writing advice video (shameless plug right here: https://youtu.be/9RuJU2KqCU8) I briefly mentioned how Inspiration does not exist, and that if you wait for the right moment, you’ll never actually get those 50,000 words done (or any words done, for that matter).
Rather, it is better to train your brain to give out a burst of concentration and creativity at the right time.
To that point, I have come up with something called Muse Triggers (because I like catchy names and so do you).
The idea behind Muse Triggers is a series of simple — but not easy — psychological steps that will help guide you into finishing any task you set your mind to (a novel in a month, for example).
And since this is likely the hundredth article you’ve read on “how to be inspired” or “How to get creative” or “how to write a novel fast” or some such Google searches, I’ll keep it down to three steps:
If you’ve ever taken a Psych class you’ve probably heard of the Six Thinking Hats. (Side note: the guy who came up with this — Edward de Bono — is a Maltese guy!) And before you run away, no, this is not going to be a detailed Psychology class.
The idea behind the hats is that you metaphorically imagine yourself putting on a hat with a different color depending on the situation. Blue is for management tasks, red is for emotions… you get the idea.
Modes are similar to this concept, with the exception of using external sources to induce an internal response. Here’s an example for the writers out there: Have you ever watched a movie that made you want to write a particular story?
That movie is your trigger, and it puts you in a Mode.
How to Apply:
Hone in on the feelings of the story you are writing. Find movies, books, music and pictures that inspire those feelings within you. Create a playlist, or a Youtube compilation of clips from those movies, put some of those pictures as your desktop background. The trick here is to fill your space with things that constantly make you want to “stay in the moment”, that make you want to write your story and live inside the imaginary world you are creating.
But, beware the time limit. I would suggest keeping a 50 minute timer (more on that later), then taking a break, and carrying on for another 50 minutes. DO NOT go over 2 hours. At that point you get tired and then you give up, and then this whole thing fails.
Small, incremental bursts (or sprints) of writing will get your brain working better. (And leave space for, you know, the real world…)
“Seize Your Day”
Okay, now I’m just blatantly stealing from the Romans, but the whole Carpe Diem thing actually works. You just have to understand — and modify — it a little to fit YOU.
The Your in “Seize Your Day” is there for a reason.
We all have different days, and thus, all have a separate perception of time. How often do you hear “Time just got away from me” or “I don’t know where the day went” or “I just don’t have the time”?
The issue here isn’t time itself, but in our planning of our day. Which makes the solution very simple (but again, not easy): take control of your day.
How to Apply:
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Brendon Burchard’s 5×50 (Five By Fifty) Method. I’m not going to list all of them here — he gives the video out for free if you buy his book or sign up for the course — but we’ve already discussed one of them, with the 50 minute time limit for each task.
This one is even simpler.
Use the FIRST 50 minutes of your day wisely. If you wake up and think of the ton-and-a-half of sh*t you need to do, you overwhelm yourself. You start off with negative energy, and that will bring your whole day down with it.
Instead, take a few minutes to do some stretching (Don’t work out though), take a few deep breaths, and take 20 minutes for yourself.
Then, spend the next 30 minutes thinking of your day. Take out a Post-It note like I do, and write your schedule down.
Again, do not overwhelm yourself. Right now, my own personal list has four things on it: I had a class this morning (done), I need to edit some chapters, I have a second weight training workout for later in the day, and this article.
Limit yourself to 2 – 3 task that NEED to be done, so that when you look at your crossed-out list at the end of the day, you feel a sense of accomplishment.
The key here is small, sustainable micro-goals (like writing 1600 words daily). By succeeding in your daily goals, it’ll be easier for you to ritualize it and make it a daily habit.
And before you know it, those 50,000 words are done!
Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. I spoke about this concept at the end of my last video (second shameless plug: https://youtu.be/9RuJU2KqCU8) — In fact, it is so important I concluded with it.
This kind of thing will be trying, it will pull you from your comfort zone. You’ll find yourself irate, sometimes arguing with family and friends (if you still have time for them). You’ll cry, you’ll laugh like a maniac (cos you’ll become one) and you’ll cry and laugh again but hopefully this time out of joy.
It will stress you out, it will make you sick, it will hurt you…
Well, tough sh*t!
The numbers speak for themselves: most will quit, some will fail, few will succeed and never go anywhere. A handful will actually edit the book and take it places.
Be the latter.
No one becomes a Bestseller easy. No one achieves something worth getting without sweating for it. So, if you want this, now is the time to prove it. Now is the time to work for it. Now is the time to push yourself hard than ever before and keep pushing, until you come out ahead and on top.
There will be people who will write about the Muse, the magical creativity fairy, or countless methods of getting yourself in the right moment, where all the stars align and you achieve some kind of Stephen King Nirvana. Here’s my response to them:
F*ck the Muse, f*ck the fairy and f*ck your moment — Sit your ass down, and get to work!
How to Apply:
See line above. I don’t think I can get more clear than that.
Do not be disheartened. This will be hard, yes, but if you stick with it, the rewards are worthwhile. Even on a day-by-day basis, you will feel a sense of achievement. Ever heard of the Competence-Confidence Loop?
When you get better at something, you feel more motivated to do more of it; and the more motivated you are, the more you do, which will make you better. Thus, the loop.
So make sure to follow all the steps above, apply where necessary, and stay motivated. Rise up to this challenge and get that book done!
Check out the original video here: https://youtu.be/9RuJU2KqCU8
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Ryan Attard is the author of the Esper Files, the Legacy series, and the Pandora Chronicles.
Hailing from a faraway island, it wasn’t long until Ryan began creating his own imaginary friends and writing down their adventures.
As Egan Brass, he writes the Esper Files — a tale of super-powered individuals set in a steampunk universe. He also dons a cape and a mask, and spends his free time learning Victorian insults in order to both confuse and enthrall his foes.
He’s also one to write his bios in the third person.