Monday, June 24, 2013

Mojo Is A Fickle Thing

I've said for years that I don't have a muse. I've joked about it, but really, I don't have one. I do, however, have writing mojo, which seems to be closely tied to my moods. Not a good thing.

So, what's the difference between a muse and mojo? Well, the muse seems to be the personification of some little voice that lives in a writer's head (or sits on her shoulder) and tells her the story she's trying to write. My stories come from me and my characters, hence, no muse.

Now mojo is a whole other thing. It's a feeling. A current that runs through your veins, bounces off your synapses, and flips on the light as it goes. It keeps the wheels greased, and the motor running at maximum efficiency.

Without my mojo, everything grinds to a halt. I push through, because I don't have any other choice, but what shows up on the page is missing that... thing. That spark the mojo sprinkles over the words that makes them shine.

My work has lots of angst, but above all, it's funny. It's not easy to get funny on the page when I'm feeling discouraged, disappointed, or simply doubting what I'm doing. In other words, when the mojo isn't flowing. In days gone by, I'd just crumple up. Not write for a month because it wasn't working. Wait around for the mojo to come back.

These days, that's not an option. I have a contract and a deadline and I will NOT miss that deadline. Failure is not an option. Which means missing mojo is also not an option. The good news is, I've figured out a few tricks to get the mojo cranking again.

1) Positive Reinforcement – This can come in many forms, but it helps if you have an agent who doesn't mind talking you off the ledge on a regular basis. Short of an agent, I turn to my writer friends. If you don't have fellow writers who are on call 24/7 to blow sunshine up your ass in an emergency, go get some. I hear you can find them on the internet. (They've got everything on the internet.)

2) Reading My Own Work – I realize this sounds incredibly egotistical, but stay with me. When the mojo fades, so does my voice. What better place to get my voice back than my own work? It's a fine line, I'll admit. There's always something I want to fix or change, which isn't good considering the book is actually on sale to the public, but in the long run, this really does help.

3) Reading Other Good Books – This is a bit of a given, but you have to find the right book. Someone with a voice close enough to yours to get your brain bouncing, but different enough that it gets you thinking outside the box. I often forget I can throw in a plot twist any time I want. Break a character's leg, give another a heart attack or a paper cut. The right book will open the brain and expand the mojo, always a good thing.

4) Tough Love – The bottom line is, with or without that mojo, I'm writing this book. So I can whine and cajole, or I can put my ass in the chair and put words on the page. Nothing brings the mojo back better than absolute grit. Mostly because the mojo is always there, it just gets buried under crap now and then. Pushing through shakes off the crap so the mojo can breathe.

In the end, it's a matter of believing. In yourself, not some wacky woo woo stuff about muses and mojo and girls in the basement. (NOT that I'm knocking the girls in the basement, but if I don't believe in me, they won't either.)

What has kick started your mojo lately? Chocolate? Wine? A good movie? And am I the only one dying to see RIPD? I just saw the commercials this weekend. It's Men In Black in the afterlife, but whoever thought of putting Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds together deserves a giant cookie.


Marnee Bailey said...

I chat about my muse too, but it's not really that centralized either. I don't think you're the only one who works like this. When things are insane in my life or when I'm feeling bad, I don't write either. Or I write garbage. Hence why the year or so after the second DS was born produced just garbage. Hard to write through post-partum depression. :)

I don't think it has to be that specific though. Stress, pressure, fear, etc, all of those things are paralyzing. I think everyone manages differently. But I think part of writing and the long haul of it, is learning how to work through it.

I think you're doing great, by the way. Not that I have to be the one convinced of that. Just thought you should know.

Terri Osburn said...

Thanks, Marn. :)

I always knew once a contract was in place is when the real work would start. We spend years with our own flexible deadlines, but when those puppies are locked in stone, it's do or die. Relying on a muse or even mojo has to go out the window.

MsHellion said...

Have not even heard of RIPD--but now have to look. Ryan Reynolds is hysterical.

I'm sure you've got it. You're definitely a constant dependable person--so they'll have the manuscript by deadline. Good luc--oh, you probably don't believe in luck either because you make your own. Go get 'em!

I wish #2 worked for me more, but I do enjoy that it's on the list. However, when I get stuck-stuck, I will go back and read more than the last few pages of what I've written, hoping to get back in the rhythm again.

All in all, great advice! Back to the grindstone.

Terri Osburn said...

I just realized something. I was reading MTB on my kindle this weekend, and it was easier to pretend I'd never read it before. So maybe we can add that trick to the list.

Change the font or the look of the page or put the word document on your reading device. Takes your brain out of thinking you're just reading your own MS. Might blind that inner critic a bit.

Sabrina Shields said...

No muse for me either but mojo I can get behind. I find repititon helps me - the same writing area, candle buring, music in, tea or coffee. Put that together and it signals writing time to my brain and sometimes it takes a bit, but I seem to find my groove there.

Janga said...

I don't think my muse has ever told me a story. It's more like I have a few logs and a stack of kindling assembled and she gives me a match to start the fire. I can start the fire without the match, but the other methods are a lot more work, take a lot more time, and lack the thrill that sudden flame gives.

If mojo is that special magic that makes you want to plunge into your story, reading certain authors--Barbara Samuel, Marsha Moyer, Kathleen Gilles Seidel--works for me. Their books leave me sighing and saying, "Oh, I want to do that!"

No disrespect to your mojo intended, Terri, but I think you also have discipline and tenacity that keep you going when quitting would be easier. I admire those qualities.

Terri Osburn said...

*high 5s Sabrina* You get what I'm talking about. I've heard that candle thing for years, but never tried it. So long as I have my inspiration pics and storyboard on the wall in front of me, I get that same benefit.

Thank you, Janga. I didn't have enough discipline or tenacity until the last year and a half, but they're certainly getting a full workout now. Just as Sabrina will tell you it's important to stretch and work your body, it's just as important to strengthen both those qualities. Not sure I'd stick with it without that looming deadline though.

P. Kirby said...

"My stories come from me and my characters, hence, no muse."

Well, yes, but I like "muse," because it's shorthand for me, myself, the people in my head, and the mojo that powers the whole shebang.

I'm purportedly a "funny" writer, but when the blahs set in that aspect of my voice dies, so my writing goes flatter than a bicycle tire full of thorns. It helps me to go hang out at a "funny" site like Cracked. Snarky/wry writing makes me smile and gets my own funny back on track.

I find that the writing in magazines like Esquire, Rolling Stone, GQ, and Empire perks up my brain and makes words flow better. (A local restaurant provides a huge shelf of current issues of various magazines, which is where I do most of my non-fiction reading.)

Reading my fave books always helps, as does watching a favorite movie or television program. Something with cracking dialogue and great characterization.

And yep, going back and rereading early sections of my WIP is helpful, if only because it reminds me of stuff, clues, misdirections, etc., that I included in the plot but had forgotten about.

Terri Osburn said...

Didn't meant to imply that others did not or could not have a muse. Sorry if that's how this came across. I hadn't thought of magazine articles, but those writers are highly underrated if you ask me. If only the articles were easier to find among that gazillion ads.

I love Gilmore Girls for the crackling dialogue, and the relationships. Subtle, flawed, but always with a good heart. And yep, I forget what I've written already. Let threads drop and have to pick them back up again. Even with my storyboard, the details get lost.

Maybe I need a more detailed storyboard.

P. Kirby said...

"Didn't meant to imply that others did not or could not have a muse. Sorry if that's how this came across. I hadn't thought of magazine articles, but those writers are highly underrated if you ask me. If only the articles were easier to find among that gazillion ads."

I didn't take it to imply "No muse for you!" [soup Nazi voice]. ;)

Empire, a British mag, is pretty awesome if you can find it free (library?). Hubby looked into getting me a subscription, but got serious sticker shock. It's all about movies with some other pop culture worked in. Not as many ads as other pubs. I like the adverts in GQ and Esquire, because they use imagery of gorgeous men. Not a fan of Cosmo and other girly mags.

Terri Osburn said...

With you on the girly mags. Was paging through one the last time kiddo got her hair cut. I think it took about 64 pages before I found the table of contents. And I wish I was exaggerating.

Maureen said...

You can get anything on the internet!

I don't think of my muse as a separate from me, though I talk about him that way. He's the inner good time guy and when I can get him to settle down and work with me...the old sitting across a campfire getting drunk together, we do great things. He's my sounding board, sorta like what your post-it board is. They talk to you, they know the story, the shift it into place for you.

I'm not that organized. I get a drunk pirate to sit across a campfire and feed him s'mores.

I do think reading your own work is vastly underrated as something that sparks your voice. I do it consistently.

As for the one thing that I believe is working right now to spark my muse? New meds.

Terri Osburn said...

I'm guessing those are s'mores soaked in rum?

Maureen said...

Well, then they'd catch fire too easily... S'mores, rum on the side.

Maureen said...

Just watched the trailer for RIPD... My God, how did that slip under my radar? We need a pirate day and we all go watch it, then crawl all over FB about it...or twitter, if I can remember how...

Terri Osburn said...

Doesn't that look awesome?? I'm not even a big para/action movie person, but I was like, "THAT is an awesome premise." And Mary Louise Parker looks to be hysterical. I also watched the trailers for RED 2, just because. Cannot wait for that one either.

Maureen said...

Yeah, Frank. How are things?

Terri Osburn said...

I love his face after she says that. LOL!

Maureen said...

So busted!