When Your Own Bad Writing Makes You Sick

Ever look back and read work you’ve done in the past to realize it sucks so bad you almost feel physically ill?

Yep, that happened to me in a big way Sunday. The previous week my son started school on Wednesday, so I started working on my new novel with gusto (I’d been waiting all summer to start!), but realized I had some background information and research that needed to be done first. Then I got the bright idea to read the half completed first draft of my second novel (Dark Territories) over the weekend. God, what a horrible, awful, terrible disappointment that turned out to be.

I couldn’t even get all the way through two chapters before I decided I’d had enough, because I was real close to vomiting. Yeah, it was that bad. And I can’t even pinpoint one specific thing that was terrible. There was a well balanced amount of terribleness from stiff and completely out of character dialogue to plot leaps that would make a mountain goat proud. There were tie-ins from one story arc to another that left me wondering exactly how much I had to drink that day. And please don’t even get me started on my long windedness. I could probably make a schooner set sail with all that blustering air moving about in each scene.

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The Broken Brain

How many times have you felt like you’ve had a broken brain? You know… like when your mind just refuses to work? When a word is just beyond reach? When an idea can’t seem to fully form. Or how about when forgetfulness rules the day? Some might call that a bad day or give it a technical term like a cognitive malfunction, but I call it broken brain.

I get broken brain a lot. Too much actually. I can go whole days where words and thoughts just aren’t coming out like they should. Hell, I’ve had whole weeks like that. It’s frustrating to know the word you want to use, but can’t quite get it from the brain to tongue, or brain to page.

So is there a cure? Can this malfunction be restored? Can the broken brain be repaired?

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The Missing Muse Part 1: Where Did the Magic Go?

Have you ever found yourself writing without a muse? One minute it’s there and the next it’s gone just like a puff of smoke. You do everything but stand on your head to try to get it back and your muse laughs as it plays the elusive game of hide and seek, taunting you in a devilish manner. This seems to be a common problem for me, in fact I have gone weeks, even months without a muse. I write anyways, but the writing is more force and even unnatural. I begin to wonder why I started writing in the first place. 


The magic is gone and all I’m left with is a stack of tasks to complete that builds into a mountain too high to climb: getting that story ready for submission, working on the second draft of a novel, outlining a new story idea, connecting with fellow writers, critiquing a friend’s story, brushing up on good writing techniques, going to writer meetings and still somehow find time to update the blog. Oh, and then living the everyday life that always manages to throw a wrench in best laid plans. Is there ever an end to the insanity? I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the muse runs and hides too delicate to suffer the abuse of demands.

How does one get past all the demands, all the expectations and all the things that need to happen to make it as a writer and still be able to stay connected to the muse? I think there are several things a person can do that include prioritizing, organizing, and learning techniques that makes the process of writing easier to accomplish. But there is also a basic element that should be the driving force of a creative writer that keeps the fire lit and the muse strong and healthy. It is the magic of creativity.

It’s the magic of possibilities and endless ideas. It’s the magic of “what if” and “what about this.” It is a way to cope with an out of control life and bring some sort of peace to a soul in turmoil. It’s the ability to create a world we can control and understand. It’s about giving our fears a face and being brave enough to discover the darkest corners of our hearts. It’s about great joys and painful sorrows. It’s about being ourselves and becoming more than we are. It’s about studying the human condition and hoping to make a great discovery about ourselves in the process. It’s the magic of creating something from nothing and taking one idea to create a great master piece.

Do you believe in magic? I do. The magic that lies deep within. If a person should dig deep enough, it can be tapped into, but often it is easy to become bogged down with the “I need to do this” “I can’t do that” “I’m expected to do that,” which stifles the ability to tap into the magic until it’s forgotten that the magic existed in the first place.

The next time the muse disappears leaving you in a puddle of despair remember the magic with. Connect to it, open up to receive it and dig beneath the layers to become steeped in it. Ask yourself “what if” and let the mind discover the possibilities. Don’t be afraid to open new doors. Most of all embrace your flaws and accept them for what they are then find away to work with them instead of against them. If inspiration refuses to come, then take a leap off the cliff of doubt and get it back. Catch the wisps of ideas and let your imagination know no bounds. Are you banging your head against the wall in search of your muse? Stop making yourself a bloody mess and rediscover the magic within.
Need ideas on how to tap into the magic of creativity? Check out The Missing Muse Part 2: Rediscovering the Magic.

This post was “inspired” by a blog from A Place for Writers titled What If by Dave Tallman.