Kickstarting (Kicking) the Muse

If I really had a muse, I’d be kicking its ass, trying to wake it up and encourage it to do its job. With health issues sapping my energy (mental as well as physical), I’m getting kind of desperate. I need to be writing. I want to be writing. But most days, writing isn’t happening. It’s partly my own fault, of course. Any sensible person would have no more than two or three WIPs underway, and even if they skipped around between them, progress would probably be visible.

But who ever accused me of being sensible? Well, I’m trying to be, so I picked out six WIPs out of the wild jungle of infinite numbers, and I’m going to let them battle it out for further attention. Only six? you say. Nothing sensible about that, but it’s what I’m going with — for now.

I’m hoping that somewhere in the process of figuring out how to evaluate them, and then doing the evaluating, a spark will leap up and I’ll know what to do. Yup. Sure.

In no particular order, here are the six I’m considering for immediate action and publication.

A Perfect Slave is technically the third Boundaries (Hand Slaves) novel. It’s finished, but could probably benefit by one more run-through. I sent every copy, including backups, to digital oblivion, thinking I’m through with slavery fantasies. But it won’t leave me alone, so I dug it out of the Time Machine (thank you, Apple).

Privileged Lives and Other Lies is not only finished, but published. It’s hardly sold any copies, but I can’t give it up. I’m almost finished with a thorough revision. If I choose it, I’ll shorten the title to Privileged Lives, and create a new cover. Does it make sense to republish an old, unsuccessful book when there are so many new ones waiting in line? Good question.

Gift of the Ancien is somewhat vampirish, probably the most mainstream novel I’ve written, and potentially the one most likely to sell more than one copy a month. It’s complete, but needs a massive revision that threatens to drown me every time I look at it. It’s also one of my oldest pieces, so there’s this nagging pressure to get it out there.

Empire of Masks has been kicking around in my head for several years, and on my computer, collecting notes. It’s another slavery fantasy, but mostly about a society gone amuck and, like A Perfect Slave, rescued from digital death. With only 1,000 or so words written so far, it’s the least likely be finished any time in the near future unless I abandon every other WIP and concentrate on it exclusively. When have I ever concentrated on one book exclusively? Only during NaNo, and I don’t think I have what it takes to do that again.

Bentham’s Dream is a prison story dear to my heart, but unlikely to attract many readers. It’s depressing, for one thing. Half to 3/4 done, with the hardest parts still ahead of me.

A Well-Educated Boy takes up most of my imaginative daydreaming lately, but I’m only a few thousand words in, and there are critical parts that still aren’t coming clear. Set in the near-future, it’s a look at two possible co-existing dystopias not so different from today’s realities. It might do well, since it’s basically YA.

So this is me, thinking out loud, and now looking back at what I just wrote for clues to the way ahead. Nope. Not yet. But it’s a start.

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9 thoughts on “Kickstarting (Kicking) the Muse

  1. You need to reduce the list by one – by finishing ANY one of these things. I’d go for the first – but see if you can’t find a reader to do that last review for you, after which you implement the fixes you like, and get it out there.

    Don’t UNpublish anything – it isn’t costing you any money to have it out there, is it?

    Is there one of these that’s 1) a reasonable amount of work from finished, and 2) would give you pleasure to work on? You can go for the work you ‘should’ finish after you get back in the saddle, and comfortable with working again.

    When my brain is half off, I don’t go for the hard things – that ends in procrastination.

    But the very worst thing of all is letting SIX things go circling around in your head, chasing each other’s tail endlessly. The WORST choice to work on is better than that. Try pretending you’re giving another writer advice – and then take it. (Alan Lakein calls that ‘the Magic If’ – if you could make a list of the chores and give it to someone else, what would you put on the list; then, until that person shows up, which item on the list could you get started? Lakein got me through my PhD thesis exactly that way.)

    1. You’re thinking pretty much the way I am. I added some factors to consider: How near to completion? How complex (meaning more work, and now’s not the time for complications)? How enamoured am I? Marketability, though that would be the least important, really. You’re right, of course, about six being way too many to consider seriously. I’m more or less reluctantly with you on choosing the first since it only needs a run-through, and correct the formatting (which got messed up somehow in the compile). A point in its favor is that I’ve been away from it long enough to come at it with a fresh eye.

      I’m beginning to almost envy people who have trouble coming up with ideas to write about. I’ll give the “Magic If” a try and see if that jolts anything loose.

  2. I would be honored if a suggestion I made was useful – hope you get yourself to a place of joy when working again very soon. What else is there that makes up for the aggravation?

    I can recommend the book, How to get control of your time and your life, Alan Lakein – except that I have distilled the whole book down to a page. He has a lot of cutesy marketing anecdotes you would want to read the first time around.

    Basically, he divides the reasons you procrastinate into two: the task is unpleasant, or the task is overwhelming (on any given day one or the other predominates, but both can occur in the same task, such as taxes). He then gives you a few techniques to deal with each. When writing my thesis (a horrible year), I would allow myself to procratinate ONLY by reading his book (preferable, believe me). Eventually, ONE of his solutions would work that day, and I’d be off and thesising. I still do the separation, Unpleasant/Overwhelming, because the techniques are really different.

    1. The title alone is enough to turn me off, and the blurb makes it worse. I simply can’t function by formula. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. I’m a born procrastinator, and it turns out that I actually have a legitimate, neurological, reason for it: executive function disorder. My ability to start and carry through on anything is totally random, though there are times when I can force myself to power through. Just one more example of my being too weird to function as expected in the real world. Having rather severe ADD doesn’t help.

  3. You are in a more difficult position than I realised. I become obssessed with one work at a time, and I can’t imagine what I’d do if I had six WIPs revolving around in my head. The only thing I can add to Alicia’s very fine first response is to pick the work that is closest to your heart, no matter how hard it might be. Don’t try to make the choice intellectually. The intellect is only a tool, not a compass.

    1. Danielle, those six are just the highest priority right now. There’s a lot more going on in my head. And yes, it can be crazy-making. But I stuck the pin in A Perfect Slave and that’s what I’m going with for as long as I can stick it out.

  4. Good one, go with that. Can I help in any way? I’m so wrecked in the afternoon by the current editing (only halfway through) that I’m just lying around watching mindless TV. I’ve time for a good read.

    1. Thanks for the offer, but I’m just going to go with my gut on this one. Get your head out of the TV. Watch a movie if you’re burned out on reading for the day.

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