Get Yourself a Muse

Image source: Hip-Hop Wired, Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty.

Sometimes I get discouraged. Sometimes I think I can’t do it. Sometimes I feel like giving up. Confession: Within the past few months, I’ve considered whether I should give up on my writing dreams and just go about living my life. Call it imposter syndrome or fatigue—whatever it is, I think it’s inherent to the job of writing.

I’m guessing you have moments of self-doubt, too. It’s part of being human. My dream may be different than yours, but no matter what our dreams are, it can be hard to keep up the sense of motivation and enthusiasm we need to reach them. I have a trick I use when I feel like giving up. I’ve gathered a small team of people who inspire me in different ways, and I remember what they’ve done or said in their own lives.

One of my favorite muses is Snoop Dogg. I  remember a funny story I heard Jason Sudeikas tell once on Late Night with Conan O’Brien about hanging out with Snoop Dogg at SNL. Sudeikas’s friend Rich suggested they all go out and party after the show finished. Trying to be funny, Rich said, “Maybe we’ll get a ho?”  Snoop responded, “Why just one ho? Why not two or three? Don’t put limits on yourself. Dream big. You may never wake up.”

Sure, Snoop wasn’t talking about writing a novel or even gathering your own group of muses. But I think the sentiment still applies. When I remember this quote, well, first, I laugh. Then I think of how it applies to all of us dreamers, reminding us we can find inspiration and motivation in many places and encouraging us not to limit ourselves with self-doubt.

I have other muses, too. Writers I think about when I am struggling. When I feel like there is not enough time in the day to write, I call upon my muse Danielle Steele, who wrote something like a billion books well into the wee hours of the night, after feeding, bathing, and tucking in about a dozen children. I try not to think about the fact that one of the ways Steele saves time in her day is by not reading. A writer who doesn’t read is an anomaly, and I don’t recommend it. But when it comes to productivity and stick-to-it-iveness, she’s a great role model.

When I feel like the business side of being a writer is too daunting, I think about self-publishing author Lindsay Buroker, who set out to make a living as a writer and accomplished her goal, one step at a time (and who is one of the most generous writers I’ve come across as far as sharing the inside story of her success).

And when I start taking myself and life too seriously and need a laugh, I think about Meg Cabot—I’ve rarely seen a writer have more fun with her life, her characters, and her career. She keeps a diary on her website, and although her post The Mark Ruffalo Effect is nearly 15 years old, it remains one of my favorites.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” Henry David Thoreau

When I’m feeling particularly discouraged, I think about author Catherine Ryan Hyde, the author of dozens of books, including the best-selling novel Pay it Forward. Hyde built a writing career for herself from scratch by working hard and being tenacious. Years ago, she critiqued of one of my short stories as a part of the Central Coast Writer’s Conference. She offered me encouragement as a writer. When I am feeling down, I re-read the handwritten note she sent me, and I remember the kind words she spoke when we met. I hang on to that moment and remember that someone whose work I admire thought my own work worthy of compliment.

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s career path is similar to the path I’d like my own career to take. She writes the kinds of stories I like to read, and she writes character-driven fiction, which is the kind of fiction I like to write. I also look to her as a role model because. now that she’s achieved success as a writer, her path as a human being is very similar to the path I’d like to think I’m on as well. She is warm and kind to fans, she is an engaged citizen of her community and of the world, and she is generous with her time and insight when it comes to aspiring writers. I keep in mind that this very real, very human neighbor of mine made her dream a reality. Maybe that means I can do it, too.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Whatever your dream may be, I encourage you to put together your own team of muses. Find people who lift you up, who inspire and encourage you, who have been there. Find people who can offer you knowledge, insight, and perspective. Most importantly, find people who have done that thing you are afraid you cannot do. If they can do it, so can you.

“Why just one ho? Why not two or three? Don’t put limits on yourself. Dream big. You may never wake up.” Snoop Dogg