Of the many trials Odysseus faced on his long journey home, one of the greatest was overcoming the seductive song of the Sirens that sapped strength from body and soul. Even the brave and stalwart Odysseus knew that he was defenseless against their allure, so he had his crew lash him to the mast until they had passed the island of the Sirens.
Likewise, the writer’s life today is beset by so many seductive but creativity-sapping siren songs. No matter how strong your passion for writing is, the world offers too many perilous distractions. You have emails to send, bills to pay, social media singing out to you. Sometimes the song is too loud.
With all these many beguiling entertainments, obligations, and amusements, you have to remind yourself to lash yourself to the mast and ignore the many singing sirens of distraction and reapply yourself to your passion for writing down your words, telling the story only you can tell — and telling it as well as you are able.
Start small: lash yourself locally to the sanctity of your time and space.
Secure your own writing spot, a safe haven away from distractions that is only for you and your writing. If you don’t have an office of your own, carve out a small corner, a kitchen table cleared of other commitments, a makeshift desk devoid of all other detritus and debris.
Cervantes wrote Don Quixote in prison —and crafted a character that still tilts at windmills with vigor all these centuries later. Your space can be anywhere, but it must be sacred to you and the people around you; a place for you and your writing, only.
Unplug from the world to plug into yourself.
The Internet is great for inspiration, but most times writing is more about intensity and perspiration. Join the growing legions of writers, like Jonathan Franzen, Nick Hornby, Dave Eggers, and Zadie Smith, who disconnect from the ensnaring World Wide Web. After all, you’re in charge of your writing world, and it’s up to you to make it work.
Once you’ve nurtured the proper relationship with your muse and your creative self, you have to start thinking about the next stage: taking your story into the world. Here, too, you can start small, a trusted friend willing to be a frank first reader, small critique groups. But eventually you’ll want to nurture other associations.
Writing can be hard and lonely. Becoming a better writer doesn’t have to be.
The writing community can be a valuable resource — a place where you’ll find legions of like-minded peers, classes, workshops, and confidants to share both struggles and successes. If you don’t have a local writing club or group in your hometown, join one online. The work of writing can be too solitary at times, but the production of great writing is more often than not a result of being surrounded by other people of similar ilk or inspiration.
Great writing comes from experiencing great thinking and great ideas. Fostering such alliances is likely to be one of the most vital things you can due to nurture your own creativity.
Think of most of the famous writers throughout history and their famous friends: the Algonquin Round Table; the Inklings; the Bloomsbury Group; Paris in the 20s with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, Pound, and Joyce, all feeding off of each other, all fervent in the belief that one day they would wake up and be geniuses together.
If you’re like most people, the limited horizons of your home and work and the twelve-inch space between you and your computer screen just might not be enough fodder for fueling the muse. To write a book that will open your reader’s eyes, you need to make sure that your own are wide open.
Treat your muse well. She hungers for new experiences and wonderful adventures. Think about attending a conference or writers’ retreat, where you’ll not only enhance your writing ability but add more experiences to nourish your muse.
Good living makes for good stories; good stories make for good writing.
Seek to surround yourself with inspired people and to see inspiring places. If you dream of seeing these places with a trible of like-minded writers, make your dreams your reality. New and novel experiences make for new and novel thoughts —all of which make for better stories and better writing.
Whether you thirst for a quiet cabin in the woods or creative classes on the California coast, or yearn to venture further afield and drink deeply from the wellsprings of Western civilization while gazing pensively at the romantic rolling green hills of Italy or the white-washed villages of he Greek islands or the cobblestoned streets and fairy-tale castle of Prague, you’re likely to find the Writing Retreat that’s perfect for you. In the immortal words of St. Augustine:
The worldly writer will travel the globe with the same voraciousness with which they devour good books, to glean new ways of seeing the world.
Make every effort to connect yourself with creative people and captivating locales, and immerse yourself in the right setting for you to find the right words.
Each and every journey has its own personality, and sometimes the trip takes you places you never dreamed of. Sometimes, like Odysseus, you must lash yourself to the mast and remain steadfast in your resolve to overcome the sirens of distraction.
Once you’ve forged a firm connection with your own writing goals and surrounded yourself with the right peers and places, you’ll be able to hoist your sails and steer the ship of your creative self to its journey’s end: taking your story into the world.
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