Thursday, October 13, 2016

So You're Afraid Your Muse Has Abandoned You. Me too.

Writing novels can be a scary thing. Different elements affect our production, and that can turn into writer’s block. (Blog: How to Jumpstart Your Imagination) There have been days in the past when I didn’t feel like writing, or maybe I was sick and wanted to watch a movie or read a book. Other days, when I’d written to a certain point in the story and didn’t know where to go, I’d take a short break. But I'd always get back to my story and finish it. I've done that eleven times for eleven books.

That all changed this summer when I had knee replacement surgery.
I know major surgery, and knee replacement is major, can change the chemistry of our bodies, but in my case it also changed how my mind worked. Everything revolved around my knee. Period. Not only have I been apathetic about writing, I’ve felt the same way about food, about getting dressed, and when I finally could drive, about going to the grocery store.

In the past, I’ve always managed to get back on track after some interruption, but to date I still haven’t been able to saddle up my horse and jump on. I admit, a contentious election has been a major distraction, physical therapy, or what I call physical torture, has also put me off, and now I’m afraid I’ll never find my groove again. Never be able to regain the concentration to finish a book. That’s a scary thought for a writer.

In finding my way back, I first returned to a book in progress for which I’d already written forty thousand words. Reading it from the beginning, I realized it wasn’t believable. I’ve written some implausible story lines before―see Goddess of the Moon―but even I felt this one was off the rails. So I went back to the fourth book in my Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series that I'd left unfinished at twenty-five thousand words. And that’s where I am now.

My critique partner and I took the summer off. The timing was perfect. She was in edits, and I was in pain. This past weekend we traded pages for the first time since June. She had already read the pages when I first wrote them, but I had gone over them, rewrote some parts, and felt pretty good about how the story was unfolding. She thought so too. I’m now on to the next fifty pages, which will catch me up to where I was when I stopped.

For the first time, I feel a slight sense of optimism. I like my story. I haven’t had the urge to play Spider Solitaire or complete a Sudoku puzzle. I did both when I came to a block in my writing, but it was always a short block and the distraction allowed me to get away from the story for a while and refresh. This summer, I became an expert gamer, and my apathy about writing didn’t bother me, which confirmed my apathy.

I’m back on my story and might even be past my sabbatical. I hope so.

Wish me luck.


Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

33 comments :

  1. Ouch, Polly. I hope you recover fully soon.

    As for losing the "muse", I know the feeling only too well. Severe sleep deprivation this year has meant complete brain fog that makes thinking difficult let alone writing something coherent. Also, after a period of editing for others, I often have difficulty switching out of that mode and into writer-mode again. So it has been a double-whammy with almost the whole of 2015 given over to a huge editing gig, and most of 2016 to recover from that. Apathy is exactly what sets in - it feels like it's no longer worth pushing through the discomfort of the blank page, especially when I've got so much housework to do and only, say, twenty minutes until school pick-up.

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    1. Yes, Elle, it's the apathy. Right now I'm so off the writing gig that I hope I get it all back. You sound like you overextended yourself. I'm in a different place, but I did eventually learn to say NO. Hope you do, because you can't do that to yourself. Do what you can do comfortably and no more.

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  2. Good luck, Polly, both with your story and your knee. I’m fairly certain my muse has left the building. Usually when I’m near the end of a manuscript edit—which I am—I have a hundred ideas and can’t wait to get started on the next book. This time, I got nothing, and I'm not sure I care.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Sorry to hear that, VR. I used to be the same way. Now I'm struggling to finish what I've started. That's when the apathy sets in. Hope you get over yours.

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  3. I can relate to the problems with the disruption and trying to get back into the groove. I have been fighting chronic, severe pain since January with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, and getting back to writing has been a challenge. The apathy you mentioned hit me, too, and now that I am some better and able to spend more time at the computer, I find that I often do too many things instead of write. Like even now. I have two hours and I am doing social media first. We do funny things with our minds, and the changes in our body chemistry impacts that as well. Here's hoping you are in your groove.

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    1. I followed your ordeal last winter and felt so bad for you. Those pain problems do take us off our game. I'm glad you're on the mend, Maryann. I know it was a horrible experience for you. Hugs.

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    2. Thanks, Polly, I know you and my other friends here have supported me through this nasty stuff. Wish it was all gone, but it still rears its ugly head. UGH!!

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  4. My muses are on vacation somewhere and I just don't have the energy to chase them. :) Maybe someday, but I am okay with saying "have fun without me" for the moment.

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    1. I wish I were, Diana. Every day I don't produced more of my story, I am disgusted with myself. You'd think I'd be used to my inefficiency by now. I'm not.

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  5. Polly, I'm in the same space, trying to get my muse back. Some days I think she's returned but then...I know it was my mom's illness and death that has caused the brain fog, and I know it will come back but it's scary when the words just don't come.

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    1. Judy, you have a good excuse. You've experienced a great loss. I'm sure when your heart heals you'll find a way back. So sorry for the loss of your mother.

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  6. You're a go-getter, Polly, but knee replacement needs to sideline for a bit! It's a long recovery time and a lot to recover from. Don't despair, it'll keep getting better and better. Glad you're on the way!

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    1. Thanks, Kaye. I'd feel better if I didn't meet a woman at PT yesterday who was two weeks from the surgery, with no swelling and walking normally. I've been walking normally for a long time, but I'm nowhere near where she is after almost ten weeks. Grr.

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    2. I saw some of those, too. Ignore them! It's a one year total recovery and I took every bit of it.

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    3. Everyone's healing is different. I've had that ankle sprain for over a month, and still can't get back to walking, which really kicks my muse in the butt! The guys in my yoga group think I'm a real weenie, but I'm thirty years older than they are. We do what we can with what we have!

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    4. Thanks, Kaye. I believe I'll be in the one year column too.

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    5. Dani, I have a feeling you have no trouble keeping up with the chil'run. They should look as good as you in thirty years.

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    6. I'm feeling a little past 30 this year. ;)

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  7. I SO need a writing partner like the one you have, Polly.

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    1. I'm grateful for her. I think she feels the same, which makes for an ideal arrangement.

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    2. Have we ever blogged about HOW to get a writing partner? I can't seem to get a local writing group together. Or a reading group for that matter.

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  8. And Elle's comments have me thinking about my enthusiasm issues. I'm wondering if I just LIKE editing work for other writers, more than I like actually writing my own stories. That would be a revelation. A depressing one. Yish.

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    1. Dani, sometimes we look to other things to justify why we aren't writing. It's so easy to do.

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    2. There is nothing wrong with being an excellent editor, Dani. :-)

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  9. This is why I outline. One of the advantages to writing mysteries is there's a pattern. Muse or no muse, I write. Deadlines happen regardless.

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    1. I've tried to outline, and I can't. The story has always created the story, if that makes any sense. The characters come as the story develops. I've written eleven books that way, and I will finish the twelfth. I will. I will. I will....

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  10. I've been bitten by the Meh bug on many occasions, and you're right. It's scary, wondering if that apathy will go away. I'm glad the feeling is lifting, and equally glad to know that you're on the mend. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks for your good wishes, Audrey. I actually wrote something today, and will continue.

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  11. Hi Polly, What an honest post! And it hit the spot with me, right in the bullseye. I've been dealing with my husband's eye surgeries and I realize it took everything I had just to be there for him. I wouldn't change that of course, but I'm headed off to a writing retreat and I hope to rekindle my story, my writing and my enthusiasm for both.
    Hugs, Leslie Ann

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    1. Oh, how I understand, Leslie. My husband is having spinal surgery in November, and that, too, has been a cause for my lack of concentration. I hope your husband's surgeries have been/will be successful. 2017 has to be a better year.

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    2. I can remember a dear friend asking me once if it was horrible that she was angry because her husband needed spinal surgery just when she was supposed to go to a conference. Luckily, she vented to me and not her husband, as she totally understood it was not his fault. But when crappy things in our lives interfere with our writing, the feelings are just there and they sap our energy. Mine has been sapped a lot for the past three years, and I slog through as much as I can. That is all we can do.

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  12. That muse is definitely a whimsical sort that comes and goes with nary a concern for the writer within who longs on some level to be allowed to fly.

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    1. She's certainly been whimsical with me, Linda.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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