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“O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.”
-William Shakespeare

As a new mother (having a six month old still qualifies me as a new mother!), I find my writing time to be…limited at best. One of the most frustrating, depressing things about motherhood for me right now is the lack of “me time.” Like most writers, I’m an introvert. I recharge be being alone and by solitary pursuits, such as writing.

Until March 2014, this worked fine. Then my son (A) was born–3 weeks earlier than expected. All of a sudden my life changed. My time was not my own. Even when I had backup to care for A, my energy was absent, and writing was far from my mind.

Lately, I’ve been considering how to put writing back in my life. I work best with some sort of schedule, but trying to schedule a six month old who may or may not nap at any given time is like trying to schedule a snowstorm to arrive on the day you wish.

I’m not going to lie, motherhood has been extraordinarily hard these past few months. Not just the typical feelings of being overwhelmed, but the medical issues A’s had, and then moving from Washington back home to Alaska, it’s been overwhelming to think about keeping up on a daily writing schedule. “Daily” has turned into “twice a week” or “weekly.” And that kills me.

But at times like these, I’m reminded of the writers who did not wait for their Muse to show up, but pursued her.

Most people wait for the muse to turn up. That’s terribly unreliable. I have to sit down and pursue the muse by attempting to work.”
Nick Cave

“One reason I don’t suffer Writer’s Block is that I don’t wait on the muse, I summon it at need.”
Piers Anthony

My muse normally hits me at about 2 a.m., when I’m far too exhausted to do anything but contemplate her ideas while lying in bed attempting, and usually not succeeding, to sleep. Lately, sleep has been as elusive as my muse, however, and the struggle to find writing time and writing inspiration continues. So I am trying to be deliberate in pursuing my muse.

For some, ignoring writing and allowing the muse to come to them seems to work well.

But I can only write what the muse allows me to write. I cannot choose, I can only do what I am given, and I feel pleased when I feel close to concrete poetry–still.”

Ian Hamilton Finlay

“When inspiration does not come, I go for a walk, go to the movie, talk to a friend, let go… The muse is bound to return again, especially if I turn my back!

Judy Collins

But this turning my back on the muse has not been inspiring to me lately. By ignoring my writing, I merely feel guilty that I am not writing and feel as if I should be writing more, but when I wait for the muse, I go days or weeks without writing. It’s a catch-22 of guilt. Do I wait for my muse, or do I pursue her? I think that answer is different for every writer. But for me, I find deliberate pursuit and discipline to be the best choice.

As some of you who have read my blog in the past know, I am a yearly participant in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and Camp NaNoWriMo. Since A’s birth, I have participated in two Camp NaNos, and I have to say, that alone has made me feel less guilty than almost any writing I have done on my own. Since Camp NaNo is a variable goal (meaning you can set your own word count, from 10K to 1 million words), I was able to set low, attainable goals of 10,000 words and actually meet those goals. I’m not saying it was easy, it took extraordinary discipline and days of catching up when I had a week of being unable to write. The main thing in my favor is that NaNo is about getting the words down and not getting them right, and since I type fast, I was able to complete my goals both times. (July was harder than April for me this year, perhaps because A was more demanding as a 4 month old and because we were literally packing up the house that month.)

But the thing that NaNo has taught me over and over again, is that I cannot wait for inspiration to write. I have to be deliberate. I have to sit down and put my fingers on the keyboard. I cannot write without making the time to write. I can dream it all, I can lay in bed at 2 a.m. and contemplate my next scene, but that does not get my novel written. It does not get the novel edited. I have to sit down at my computer (or iPad or journal) and write. There is no other way. And if I don’t, then the ideas I have linger on for a few hours or days, or maybe only minutes, and then disappear forever. And I don’t know about you, but I want my muse to keep revisiting me, and not to lose what she whispers in my ear at night.

All it takes is ten minutes. Fifteen, if I’m lucky, where I can sit down with my iPad or computer and edit a scene or a few paragraphs. It alleviates my guilt of not writing, it releases the hounds from my back and tells me that I’m still a writer because I’m still writing. And the baby sleeps for fifteen minutes every day. I can make the time; I have to pursue the muse. Because if I don’t write, I lose a part of my identity. I lose the fact that I’m a writer. And I don’t want to–I cannot–lose my identity.

Have you ever gone for a long time without writing? What got you back at it?