The Muse Is A Greedy Bitch

Now don’t misconstrue me here. I love hate love hate love my Muse!  But she is one monumentally greedy bitch.  And I’m sure that all writers, artists, and musicians who live and practically die by her whims and wishes would agree with me on this statement.

Many people who know me personally are aware that, despite my stringent writing schedule, I have written few inspired new words in some time.  And that all my attempts to rekindle my writing has not had much success.  Part of this problem was sheer frickin’ laziness on my part.  I can admit.  It’s too easy to be seduced by the feeling of satisfaction that editing can bring about.  A writer can feel so productive after spending an entire writing session editing one chapter to pristine wit.  And, after a time, this instant feeling of satisfaction (and maybe the actual need to get some editing completed) can lure one into a sense that editing IS writing.  But this is a dangerous trap for writers and a slippery slope into complacency.

How can editing ever be bad, B.C.?

 Well, editing isn’t bad – per say.  But letting editing become the absolute dominance of your writing schedule is a slow way to kill yourself as a writer.  It will certainly kill any career that you might have.  Why, might you ask?  Consider this:

  •  I have a two-hour a day writing schedule.  I maintain this schedule four days a week, without fail.  I generally accomplish a minimum of 1,000 words per scheduled session (this is only 3 pages of work roughly).  This equates to 4,000 words (minimum, mind you) a week.  In one month, I complete 16,000 words.  At this rate, I can complete the first draft of a novel (64,000 words) in 4 months.

These are great numbers for completing the first draft of a novel.  I would think that most authors would agree that 64,000 words is pretty average for a rough first draft.  (Yes, some of us are superfluous writers and have rough first drafts that end up on the high word-count side, but I think most fall short of “normal” word count for submission and are “fill-it-in”-ers.)  At this rate, a novelist can churn out a first draft in 4 months; a second draft in, say, 2 additional months (with the minimum addition of 32,000 more words); and a final draft (with an addition of another minimum of 32,000 words) in 2  more months.  This is now a 128,000 word novel.  (A bit lengthy, but that’s why we edit.) So far, this only totals 8 months – leaving the author an additional 3 months for edits/revisions, and 1 month to divide up amongst play-time and sick-time (or Damn, life got in the way of my dreams again!-time).

 At this rate, a novelist can complete fully one (ranging on average from 70,000 – 100,000 words) novel a year.  Awesome job!

But let’s look at what happens when editing begins to creep into my scheduled writing time, shall we?  Consider this:

  • My writing schedule is divided by half.  I spend 1 hour a day editing something I’ve already written and writing something new.  My word count dwindles to 500 words a day (about a page and a half of work).  This means I complete 8,000 words a month. To complete the same 60,000 word first rough draft, it takes me 7.5 months. Can we see where this is headed?  To over all reach the same 128,000 word original third draft, it would take a novelist 16 months to only work on the drafts for a novel.  Then there are the editing and revisions.

Granted, it might only take half the time to edit and revise as what I indicated previously but still?  16 months to complete the drafts? Whereas before a novelist can churn out one novel (fully edited and ready for submission) every year, it would take almost two years for the same project.

What about those novelist who work on multiple ideas at a time, B.C.?

 Ah, the multi-taskers.  Well, I’m one of these people.  I’ll admit that I frequently work on more than one project at a time.  Why?  Well, it’s certainly not because I don’t want to remain dedicated to one task and completing it at an impressive rate.  Realistically, it’s because sometimes the Word Muse is a stubborn little bitch as well as being greedy.  Sometimes her greed is shown by her hoarding all the words to herself; other times, she’s ridiculously generous with them – to the point of overabundance…too bad they aren’t all on the same project, however.

Most multi-taskers, like myself, don’t go off project because we want to.  We go off project because we have to.  At some point, the Muse thought it might be funny to toss a whole (or sometimes several new) idea to us at once.  As writers we learn that if you try to wait to write the other ideas that come to you, you might as well kiss ’em good-bye because they’ll be gone before you have the chance.  Sayonara, suckers!  This is the case of the Word Muse being a stubborn bitch; she refuses to let you work on one idea until you work on the other idea she’s given you.  But we multi-taskers have to be dedicated. We have to take the extra words the Muse is supply and use them but try not to let them overrun us – like with editing.

Yeah, I’m back to the editing rant now.  Whatcha gonna do, stop reading? HAHA

As a multi-tasker, writers have to learn how to take what we feel inspired to do in small doses (unless it’s churning out those word counts, baby!) or else we’ll get snowed under.  Take, for instance, my most recent disaster with not writing when I should have been.

I have a routine that I follow when writing.  My writing schedule is never at the same time a day (like I know many other authors do), and I’m never in the same place when I decide I’m going to start my writing schedule (or finish it, for that matter), but there are some fundamentals to my writing that are required.  These are two things – my laptop (not someone else’s or a notebook or the library computer, but mine) and Gummi Bears.  If I’m missing one of these two ingredients, then my writing schedule is pretty much a bust – nothing productive will come out of it.  At least not new words.  However I can edit anywhere, with anything, and without Gummi Bears.  And it is so easy to become seduced by the notion that editing alone IS writing.

Is editing a necessary part of writing? Uh, yeah.  Is it something every writer has to do once they complete a novel?  Uh, duh.  But is it writing?  Uh, no.  Editing is a part of writing and a small part at that.  There is nothing easier than taking something that has already been created (especially if you created it) and changing it in small or even monumental ways.  But the fact of the matter remains that you aren’t creating anything new (except maybe two or three words here or a sentence there), and new creation is the hardest part of writing.  Otherwise anyone would be able to write.

So back to my original thought about the Muse being a greedy bitch.  I have learned the hard way over the last 4-5 months that while I may not like the fact that I have two very specific needs for creating new writing, the Muse (in all her frickin’ glory) makes those two demands of me.  Whether or not I choose to fulfill her wishes determine whether or not I gain access to her wondrous inspiration that is a perfectly crafted sentence of sheer indulgence.  Because, let’s face it, that is what writing is to me – it’s sheer indulgence in my own fantasies.  So I suppose I’ll give up the goat, admit to my laziness (that editing, while it makes me feel productive is not actually writing), and make sure I have a steady supply of Gummi Bears on hand to sacrifice to the Word Muse from here on out, huh? 

B.C. Brown