I took a number of things for granted while writing my first novel that I am now quite suddenly lacking for the second book. In fact, I took them so much for granted that I didn’t become cognizant of them until I noticed a resounding echo where they no longer were.
At this juncture, because I really need the points; I’m going to give myself kudos for at least being quick to realize what it was that had made writing the first book so easy and what the absence of was making the creation of the sequel feel like camping out in a cold, damp cavern with only echoes and the distant sound of dripping water for company.
Before I let you in on what was missing and what to some degree still is, let me tell you a bit about how it felt.
I really, truly wanted to write and the story was still there. The characters still chattered in the back of my mind and my drive to write was intact. But every time I sat down it would seem I was too tired, full of stress and tension, or so scattered of mind that I couldn’t collect myself long enough to get anything accomplished(aside from scrolling the Facebook feed). Even after nights where I found inspiration and managed to knock out a thousand or so words, I still found myself floundering the next day.
So at this point, I guess you’re wondering what crucial element was missing, that it managed to so entirely derail the writing train that helped me write and edit 108,000 words and finish my first novel.
Wait for it…did you read the title?…Routine and security. It was that simple and also that complicated. I’m not sure how many writers are deeply entrenched in routine and rely on it to get their books written, but apparently I am. Big time.
Back in the illustrious Antelope Valley desert I knew what to expect and when to expect it. The heat was dry, the dust was well…ever present and dusty, the rain smelled like spice and sage-brush, and every night was writing time.
Even annoyances like moths immolating themselves on the lights above us and falling into our laps were expected and safe. Candles, a bit of wine or hot tea, a circle of writers feeding off of each other’s creativity as it flowed through the room. Good company. And the words poured into our laptops like the wine into our glasses.
Change can be a blessing. A jumping off point for inspiration and personal growth but it also shakes things up and rattles our insecurities around in our skulls like seeds in a pod, ready to take root and grow into phantasms of self-doubt.
Change calls into play Maslow’s hierarchy. The human creature has great trouble focusing on higher callings like art and self expression when the basic needs of food (delayed pay), shelter (friend’s garage, hotel, guest room) and safety from roaming predators (angry neighbors) aren’t a certainty.
My guess is that all artists need their routines and a strong sense of security to produce their best work, even if the routine is misery and the only security is being unable to fall lower!
So this brings me to problem solving. How does an author re-root, settle in, and build security and routine in the name of calling back a skittish Muse?
Well there’s always coffee, but by itself probably not good enough.
I’m going to posit these ideas and we’ll see if they take me from sporadic writing to regular and inspired storytelling and perhaps a completed Progeny Book Two within a few months.
1) Old routines made new: take all the small routines that added up to comfort before the move or big change and revamp them for the new environment. A hot or cold drink that’s special for writing time and suits you now, a cozy place to settle in, candles that remind you of home.
2) meditation before settling in
3) cultivate new support systems and writing buddies while holding onto your old ones if possible.
4) Maslow’s Hierarchy! Tend to your basic needs as best you can before expecting inspiration to flow.
So stay tuned, fellow authors and readers, and an update will be forthcoming once I manage to implement all of my ideas. If any of you are suffering similar loss of productivity from your world shaking up, crumbling down, or otherwise going sideways, and you think my suggestions might help, give me a shot and let me know if they appease the Muse.