All of us start out writing for different reasons. Perhaps we have dreams of seeing New York Times Best Seller or USA Today Best Seller in front of our names. Perhaps we long to be a household name like Stephen King or even a legend like J.K Rowling.
Some of you might want to see Winner of the Pulitzer Prize on the cover of your books or see your books made into television or major motion pictures. Some writers simply want to finish that one novel and publish it so they can say they wrote a novel.
Every dream is equally noble. There are no right or wrong goals only your goals (and goals evolve as we do). Yet, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the level of sacrifice and self-discipline required to Write a Novel in a Year is different from the author who longs to be the next Neil Gaiman.
When I started writing I thought I knew everything. It wasn’t until I went to my first writing conference that I understood the truth. I was too dumb to know how much I didn’t know. When I later gained genuine mentors (professionals) I was horrified to realize my writing wasn’t the only thing that needed a major overhaul. My character, habits, and attitudes did too.
In all bluntness, I began as a lazy unteachable ass who believed in luck not work. Most of all I had no concept of how important it was to set and maintain boundaries.
I hadn’t yet learned to guard the muse.
That had to change if I was ever going to reach my dreams. Our muse is precious and there are some critical habits we must learn to keep her healthy. We need to feed her good things—rest, books, classes, music, good friends. But at the same time? We must also protect her. This is critical for success in writing (or actually anything for that matter).
Guard Your Energy
Energy is to the muse what blood is to the body. Drain out 3 quarts from your wrists and see how you feel. Similarly, we need to make sure we aren’t dragging the muse through emotional razor wire.
Trust me, legendary authors guard their energy the way a concert violinist guards her hands. Energy that leaks out into unproductive endeavors is stealing vital life-force from the muse and pros get that.
Yet how many emerging writers are clinging to writing groups filled with folks who complain and never write? Holding onto family members or friends who are addicted to crises? How many writers are reckless with posts or comments on social media?
All that mental energy hemorrhaging into drama or onto social media in fruitless ways is taking away vital creativity that could be going into their work. But instead of their talent being focused in a novel, it is being bled into arguments on Facebook threads, tweets or in a blog’s comment section.
Cut OFF Toxic People
The best way to have a healthy muse? Don’t poison her. If a friend or family is emotional gangrene? CUT THEM OFF.
Toxic people always have problems and they really aren’t interested in solving them. They might say they want advice or support but this is a lie. They simply want an audience to nod to their excuses and indulge their anger, self-pity or addictions. Hanging out with them is like volunteering to be in a constant emotional full contact sport.
And yeah I am mixing the hell out of metaphors but I want you guys to understand how important this all is.
Negative emotions are not only draining, but after prolonged exposure, we can become physically ill and damage the muse (sometimes permanently).
Toxic people are always in a heightened emotional state. Their behavior creates stress and stress is something our bodies will react to in a primal way. When we sense danger, blood transfers from the cerebral cortex (higher thinking centers) to the reptilian brain (fight or flight). This serves a purpose. If a car is on our child, this isn’t the time to remember all our clever Nietzsche quotes.
But the problem is our bodies can’t tell the difference between outrunning a bear and merely arguing with a recalcitrant sibling or a troll on Facebook.
Lizard Brain is NOT creative.
Additionally we are who we hang around. Thoughts become actions, actions become habits, habits become character and character becomes destiny.
Got people in your life who want to complain? Make excuses? Still partying like it’s 1999? Just let them go lest they rub off.
Beware of Overconfidence
Over the weekend I saw the movie Doctor Strange and loved it! But how did Dr. Stephen Strange end up battered and broken in a temple in Nepal instead of being the world’s richest and most renowned surgeon? He grew overconfident and believed he could drive on rainy roads at high speed while talking on the phone and looking at e-mail.
And he ended up with two crushed hands.
Out of ego, he failed to guard what was most precious to doing his job. And yeah it is a Marvel story but there is a neat lesson we can use.
When we rant on social media, tweet whatever flies through our head, get tangled up in friend drama or family fiascos, that is being reckless with the muse. And sure maybe the first 393 times we speed down that wet highway talking on the cell phone and texting goes fine. But it only takes something going wrong once for us to drive off a cliff and crush the muse.
And most of us don’t have Plan B of living in a temple learning to fight in other dimensions.
Choose Our Battles
It’s easy to believe that “we can handle it” but in all honesty? That is a dangerous game.
Toxic people have more access to our lives than ever before. One of the reasons I recommend writers avoid ranting about politics on Facebook (unless one longs to be the next Bill Maher or Anne Coulter) is that, among many other reasons, it is a tremendous mental drain that can have devastating consequences (refer to guarding energy).
One of the biggest reasons many emerging writers will never bear fruit is they lack the discipline to choose their battles.
We are anointed to change the world with books, not argue with idiots on social media.
We can get pulled into on-line tiffs with folks who have no intention of changing their views. Many are on there for the sheer joy of being contrary or even cruel. I even have a mantra on Facebook when I see something that someone posts that upsets me and I feel the need to “say” something and “set them straight.”
I am NOT the Jackass Whisperer.
Then I unfollow them out of my feed and move on. We must understand that social media and building a platform is our job, but we need to manage distraction and compulsion. Sure we might initially get that “feel good” zing, but the cost of fruitless battles are far higher than the payoff. Every time we do this we are stealing energy from the true payoff—our finished and published books.
Toxic people are a great distraction on-line but also in life. We might think, “Oh I will write after I help Such-and-Such” get sorted. The problem is Such-and-Such has zero intention of ever being sorted. Misery just loves company.
So why are we handing them our limited and precious creative energy?
Where the Mind Goes the Muse Follows
Years ago I had the pleasure of working with Ferrari and was invited to some pretty amazing events, including getting to meet professional race car drivers. When drivers are racing, the most important component to winning is not crashing. Seems silly, but it’s true. If your car is in flames, odds are a trophy is not in your future.
But when race car drivers train, the most vital lesson is to keep the eyes where they want the car to go. Where the mind goes, the man follows. Look at the wall? Hit the wall. Look at the finish line? Cross the finish line.
Thus, a big way we can guard the muse from crashing is to keep focusing on where we want to go.
In the end, any kind of success is all about discipline. Like anything else, our muse gets stronger the more we feed her the good stuff and the better we guard her from the bad.
What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with distraction? In person or on-line? I know this time of year is hard on a lot of us when it comes to setting boundaries. Did you have to let go of writing friends who always complained and never wrote? Who couldn’t take criticism? Who refused to learn and grow? Did you find that you did better once you got away?
What are some ways you guard your muse?
I love hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of NOVEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
TREAT YOUR MUSE!!!! Check out the Upcoming Classes
Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it because the holidays are crazy? No excuses! Take time to be good to yourself! All you need is an internet connection!
How to Get Your Book Made Into Film
Class Title: How to Get Your Book Made Into Film
Instructor: Writer/Producer Joel Eisenberg
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: WEDNESDAY November 30th, 2016 1:00 PM E.S.T. to 3:00 P.M. EST
How do you cull the essence of your novel into a feature film? How do you expand your short story for a television series? Finally, when the written adaptation is complete, how do you navigate the Hollywood maze for real money and credits?
Joel Eisenberg has been there. As an independent producer of over 20 years, Joel has developed content or sold projects to networks such as TNT, CBS-Decades, FOX Studios, Ovation TV and more. As the former head of EMO Films at Paramount Studios, Joel is also a professional networker, having hosted entertainment network events at the Paramount lot, as well as Warner Brothers, Sunset-Gower Studios and more. His work has been featured in many media outlets, including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, The Los Angeles Times, TV Guide and even Fangoria.
Important Class for After NaNoWriMo! You might have a New Year’s Resolution to query a novel. Doesn’t matter. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present!
Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS
Class Title: Pitch Perfect—How To Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 2nd, 2015 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST
You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.
Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?
***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.
Good question. We will cover that and more!
But sometimes the query is not enough.
Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, this is a valuable skills all writers should learn. Synopses are often requested by agents and editors and it is tough not to feel the need to include every last little detail. Synopses are great for not only keeping your writing on track, but also for pitching your next book and your next to that agent of your choice.
This class will help you learn the fundamentals of writing a query letter and a synopsis. What you must include and what doesn’t belong.
So make your writing pitch perfect with these two skills!
Plotting for Dummies
Class Title: Plotting for Dummies
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $35 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: SATURDAY December 3rd, 2016 2:30 PM E.S.T. to 4:30 P.M. EST
Are you tired of starting book after book only to lose steam and be unable to finish? Do you finish, but then keep getting rejected? Do you finish, but it takes an ungodly amount of time? Sure, great you land an agent for your book, but you don’t have FIVE YEARS to write the next one?
This class is here to help. The writers who are making an excellent income are not doing it off ONE book, rather they are harnessing the power of compounded sales. This class is designed to help you learn to plot leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner (even for PANTSERS!)
Learn the basic elements of plot, various plotting techniques, how to test your seed idea to see if it is even strong enough to be a novel and MORE!
Blogging for Authors
Class Title: Blogging for Authors
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $50 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 9th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST
Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.
The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.
The problem is too many writers don’t approach a blog properly and make all kinds of mistakes that eventually lead to blog abandonment. Many authors fail to understand that bloggers and author bloggers are two completely different creatures.
This class is going to cover:
How author blogs work. What’s the difference in a regular blog and an author blog?
What are the biggest mistakes/wastes of time?
How can you effectively harness the power of algorithms (no computer science degree required)?
What do you blog about? What topics will engage readers and help create a following?
How can you harness your author voice using a blog?
How can a blog can help you write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner?
How do you keep energized years into your blogging journey?
How can a blog help you sell more books?
How can you cultivate a fan base of people who love your genre?
Blogging doesn’t have to be hard. This class will help you simplify your blog and make it one of the most enjoyable aspects of your writing career.
#1 by shaunkellett on November 22, 2016 - 11:59 am
This was a truly brilliant post and exactly what I needed to read today! I especially loved reading the part about cultivating a healthy muse, cutting out the toxicity, etc. What would we writers be without our muse? (except uninspired)
#2 by lanettekauten2016 on November 22, 2016 - 12:05 pm
I’ve definitely let myself become the “jackass whisperer” lately. Someone I’ve known for years is committing political suicide. I publicly made a huge plea to him to not go down a particular path. I should’ve made the plea then wipe my feet of the entire matter, letting him do what he wants. Nope! Instead I keep allowing him to pull me into fights.
I have a whole week off from homeschooling. I need to write and not get pulled into fights with idiotic jackasses.
#3 by Jessica Barrett on November 22, 2016 - 12:16 pm
This is so great! And so true. I’m guilty of letting go of some of my energy every once in a while. This year I’ve done a better job of lessening the time I spend with toxic people, or people who don’t actually want to be helped. I’m taking to heart the notion of “you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with”. (Now I just need to figure out how to get Oprah to hang out with me…). Very insightful post, Kristen. Thank you.
#4 by annaerishkigal on November 22, 2016 - 12:26 pm
I’ve discovered the power of the Freedom and Anti-Social apps. Every time I don’t use one of them to block the internet, I seriously regret it and end up frittering away a day (or week) furious at some jerk instead of channeling that energy into writing my next chapter. Especially lately, with emotions so high.
Imaginary friends are like REAL friends. If you’re always too busy talking to other people, they will go away and stop talking to you after a while.
#5 by Lynne Marino on November 22, 2016 - 12:56 pm
Excellent post. Thank you. And now, back to work!
#6 by gabe on November 22, 2016 - 1:19 pm
Amen! Without energy we have no power. A scientific fact. Thanks for reminding me to feed my muse.
#7 by Heather Heyford on November 22, 2016 - 1:21 pm
Finger on the pulse, as always. Post-election and pre-holiday. What a great time to remind writers exactly why we are on social media in the first place—to raise awareness of our books. Here’s to always taking the high road!
#8 by Bridgett Morigna on November 22, 2016 - 1:28 pm
Reblogged this on Writing and Musing and commented:
This is great advice. It is so very important to protect that part of us that makes it possible to do the amazing things we do.
#9 by kdrose1 on November 22, 2016 - 1:34 pm
Reblogged this on authorkdrose.
#10 by A.S. Akkalon on November 22, 2016 - 1:55 pm
Thank you for the great post and well-timed reminder. I especially love this: “I am NOT the Jackass Whisperer.” Someone on the internet will always be wrong, and most of the time the only response is to take a deep breath and walk away (usually = get offline and back to writing).
#11 by C.E.Robinson on November 22, 2016 - 1:59 pm
This post came at the best time! Yep, I’m a helper, helping other people write! Of course, it takes away (energy) from my own writing. Charlotte, the Muse, shakes her head, sits by, and waits! Watch out Charlotte, change is coming! 💛 Christine
#12 by Sharon Moore on November 22, 2016 - 2:01 pm
I would be lying if I told you I read every post you leave; however, I am deeply grateful I read this one. Because my husband recently had a heart transplant, I was drowning in guilt each time I stole a precious intimate moment with my muse and away from his needs. Worse yet, without my daily connection to her through my blog, monthly column, articles, novel preparation and journaling, she was silent and I felt adrift. I cannot thank you enough for this bit of insight, which should be oblivious to all who write and yet can be lost if not nurtured regularly.
#13 by Patricia Robertson on November 22, 2016 - 2:21 pm
Thank you! So much negativity out there. It has been draining me of energy. Thanks for the reminder not to let it suck the life out of me.
#14 by Kay Henden writing as Ellen Keigh on November 22, 2016 - 2:27 pm
This is SO spot-on! As writers we need to tap into angst (our own and others) periodically, as source material and just to stay part of the human race, but we can all too easily get fixated on it. Having just emerged from a longish walk on the dark side, this post was just the beacon I needed right now. Thank you!
#15 by Wendy L on November 22, 2016 - 2:32 pm
Third time today The Universe has spoken to me in the same vein. Maybe I should listen!
#16 by Laura Kirwan on November 22, 2016 - 3:35 pm
Reblogged. Thanks! I needed to hear this today.
#17 by Ontyre Passages on November 22, 2016 - 3:44 pm
Every word of this post is the truth. To paraphrase a political catch phrase, “It’s about the writing, stupid.”
My stupid has too often been a pointless burden, but I keep taking the steps to improve. About four years ago I cleared all the toxic people out of my life, but then discovered I have a knack for attracting new ones. The next step was to learn what I (yes, me) was doing to attract them and to become better at spotting them early. It’s meant aborted critique partner relationships, but I’ll keep trying and eventually I’ll make it happen. Though none of the relationships are close, I now have more acquaintances who are positive people striving to improve. They inspire me and I fight to return the kindness.
The political arena was another place I cleared house, though I wish I’d done so sooner. Over a year ago I let it all go, stopped posting about it and engaging others on the topic. It was sucking me dry and dominating my thoughts. Since then, I’ve written over 20 short stories and drafted two novels. Amazing what you can make happen when you apply your efforts where you truly want them.
We all have to be individuals, of course, but we also have to set priorities and understand there are consequences attached to lower priorities that can cost us those higher on our list. Awareness is always a good thing.
#18 by Rachel Funk Heller on November 22, 2016 - 4:13 pm
Great post and I will add another way to protect the muse is a daily meditation practice. It makes your brain more coherent and the writing process easier
#19 by Chuck on November 22, 2016 - 4:58 pm
I wrote a post and titled it “Why do I write” check it out. But mine is not as well done as yours. I love your advice. Have you heard of the Literary Blog site Two Drops of Ink? it is a great support and excellent information for new and experienced writers.
#20 by Nancy Segovia on November 22, 2016 - 5:11 pm
Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
Rid yourself of energy drains
#21 by Deborah Makarios on November 22, 2016 - 5:27 pm
Thanks for this post! It makes me feel much better about how ‘small’ my life seems. I’m not out there doing this and talking about that and keeping up with all those… I pretty much just stay home and write. And read. And occasionally do some housework. And at last (at last!) I am learning to commit to it and really be productive.
#22 by Teresa Schulz on November 22, 2016 - 6:59 pm
Reblogged this on Teresa Schulz and commented:
Completely agree with Kirstin on this. Very useful advice for writers or anyone with a goal they wish to achieve.
#23 by Kathryn Jane on November 22, 2016 - 7:10 pm
Reblogged this on Mystery and Romance and commented:
Oh my, this is such an important lesson! I spread myself too thin last year by volunteering for too much. My muse still produced two full length novels and two novella length collections of short stories, but I will still fall about 80,000 words short of my goal for the year.
Thankfully, I’ve learned my lesson and have my eye on the prize again. Thanks for posting this great lesson, Kristen!
#24 by ratherearnestpainter on November 22, 2016 - 9:03 pm
Hi Kristen. It’s been a while. My muse has been in a corner in a fetal position for the last couple of months. (Or, was that me? ) It’s mostly my job that’s draining me. I love(d) my job, but if I don’t give them all day and all night every week then it’s not enough. They are the friend who is always in crisis. I say this to add another dimension to your post.
While I look for another job I really have had very little energy left for writing or drawing or painting. None, actually. But, I do have to eat and pay bills, so I do have to remain employed. I’m not saying everybody should ditch their day job, but it would probably be a good idea for anybody to take stock in these things – not just writers.
#25 by Akaluv on November 22, 2016 - 9:47 pm
This was a wonderful post, thanks so much for sharing!!!
#26 by bandnamdcharlie on November 22, 2016 - 10:03 pm
So glad I took the time to read this post – it was exactly what I needed to hear!
#27 by Laura on November 22, 2016 - 11:34 pm
I had to stop reading most social media back in September. Talk about draining. I just can’t do it. It did exactly what you said – my muse was catatonic. Now that she’s rested and I managed to revive her, I have ideas and I’m writing again. Granted, I have some drama of my own right now, but it’s situational (mechanically related) and it will pass… 🙂
#28 by The Guat on November 23, 2016 - 1:37 am
This was so on point at this very moment. The universe is totally conspiring with me. I love the fact that you talk about toxic people (or just people that are not on board with your vision and just suck the air out of your balloon). Some are friends and some are family and I just had to stop sharing my dream with them. They just weren’t worthy of it. So whether good things or bad things happened I never mentioned it because I knew they always had Something to say. Unfollowing people in your life whether on social media or real life is key to guarding your energy. I like that phrase … “guarding your energy,” don’t think I’d ever heard it put that way. Thanks for a great piece. Hit the spot!
“We are anointed to change the world with books, not argue with idiots on social media.”
I also really enjoyed that one … I think it applies to both social media and real life.
#29 by Elizabeth Rose on November 23, 2016 - 8:09 am
True on all counts. Although I have done a good job of not letting toxic people steal my time or energy, sometimes life throws you such a curve ball that you have to ask your muse to take 5 because you must deal with it. Things like job loss, serious illness, etc. Life keeps happening, and stress isn’t conducive to my creativity.
Once my muse takes a vacation, it takes a long time for her to come back. Usually, not until the catastrophic problems are resolved. And when she does come back, I must treat her kindly and gently. It takes time for her to really be invested in my writing again.
#30 by Kate Pavelle on November 23, 2016 - 9:55 am
Well said, and thank you for the spinal realignment! I wish you a most joyous Thanksgiving.
#31 by storytellergirlgrace on November 23, 2016 - 10:02 am
I wish I could double-like this post! Well said, Kristen, as always!
#32 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 25, 2016 - 12:33 am
#33 by Invisiblearrows on November 23, 2016 - 12:18 pm
Love this! Thanks for posting!
#34 by Jonathan Gunson (@JonathanGunson) on November 23, 2016 - 11:06 pm
Perfect Kristen, especially the “cut off toxic people” advice. In fact, I’ve decided to cut off toxic influences of ALL types – people, news or social media idiots. Very good article thanks. 🙂
#35 by Author Kristen Lamb on November 25, 2016 - 12:33 am
#36 by Karen on November 25, 2016 - 4:17 pm
Great post! Thanks for this. I realize I’ve been cutting folks out of my life unconsciously for a few years now… And I’ve got three books out on Amazon to show for it. 🙂
#37 by aurorajeanalexander on November 26, 2016 - 5:27 pm
Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
Kristen Lamb’s Single largest secret to success.
#38 by Sue Marquis Bishop on November 27, 2016 - 12:37 am
A wise rift we could all benefit from one time or another.
#39 by Bill on November 27, 2016 - 7:02 am
“I am not the Jackass Whisperer.”
That, I am going to remember for a long time.
I don’t know what to do with social media. Sometimes I resolve to dump it out of my life, then I reflect on how it allows me to stay connected with distant friends and family. Sometimes I resolve to block annoying people, then I worry that I’m creating an artificial bubble for myself.
Whatever direction I go in, I’m going to remember that no matter how tempted I may be, I am not the Jackass Whisperer. Thanks!
#40 by lorraineambers on November 27, 2016 - 3:52 pm
The next family member to call me with there toxic bull, I shall say to myself: ‘I am NOT a jackass whisperer.’ Lol, love this post. Stress is a muse killer. 😊
#41 by KPerkins on November 28, 2016 - 4:58 pm
Reblogged this on No-Clue Writing Platform and commented:
This is a fantastic post! I needed the reminder that a) I don’t know everything and b) energy doesn’t have to be limitless. Also, “not a jackass whisperer.” Going to have to remember that one.
#42 by nancypartridge on November 30, 2016 - 12:54 pm
Reblogged this on Fairy Tales and More and commented:
The holidays have me flummoxed and distracted (ok, it is fun to eat stuffing for breakfast) but there is always a little time to flex those writing muscles. I invite you to read this awesome post by Kristen Lamb. Have a great day and remember to Guard Your Muse!
#43 by nancypartridge on November 30, 2016 - 1:03 pm
Thanks so much for this. LOVE the post….it will help me to remember to guard my muse throughout the holidays. Reblogged this on my blog Fairy Tales and More. Thank goodness we are not alone!
#44 by how2failatlifewithpassion on December 4, 2016 - 8:41 pm
This is a great post! “I am not a Jackass Whisperer.” Ha! I need that painted on a sign somewhere as a daily reminder.