Monday, January 9, 2012

Mojo Hide and Seek

I spent a good deal of last year editing and revising and NOT DRAFTING. Editing so intensely that I couldn't even read a book without scrutinizing every sentence. Analyzing every choice. Evaluating every bit of thought and dialogue. It was early September; I had just gotten ready to query TTBB, and I was about to start writing my next novel. But as far as taking a plot in my head and figuring out how to start and what to reveal in the opening and how to order a scene or multiple scenes and how to develop a character, I was at a loss.

I didn't remember how I got the knowledge to do those things in the other books I wrote, but wherever it came from... it was lost. I couldn't remember how to combine all those elements into a story.

I texted my sister, "I forgot how to write!"

She texted back, "It's just like riding a bike, right?"

I replied, "I may remember how to pedal the bike, but I can’t remember how to steer. I keep crashing into bushes and my legs are all scratched up. So is my bike. And the bushes. And if I’m being honest, the sidewalk. And that poor kid walking on it."

I find it oddly comforting to know that everyone crashes now and again.

But just because your mojo goes into hiding, doesn't mean it can't be found. Even if it's hiding REALLY WELL.

Peggy's Guide to Getting Your Mojo Back

Write total crap. 

Somehow convince yourself that you aren't trying to get this first draft as shiny as that manuscript you've taken through a million revisions. All that matters is that you continue.

No matter how much those words stink, power through it. Keep writing even if every single bit of it comes out crap. Keep writing even though it gets really really hard and all you want to do is stop, throw the laptop out the window, walk away, decide you are done, quit. Because do you know what that means? That you're about to the crest of that incredibly high mountain! You're almost there! And, well, yeah... It will get harder before it gets easier. And you'll have to push a little harder even when you think there is absolutely no strength left in you to give. But you'll crest that mountain.


And then from there... Oh my gosh, from THERE, you hit the downhill part. The part where you start going so fast, you don't think you can ever stop. Possibly not even to sleep. (And then as long as you mind the occasional rock, tree, ditch, river, or crevice, you've got it made. :))

Have you ever lost your mojo? (I'm not the only one who had to play hide-and-seek with my mojo, right?) How did you get it back?

40 comments:

Cristina said...

yup, I lost my mojo this weekend and I decided to abandon my story.. and then... I think because I gave up my neurotic control over the story.. the solution to the problem came to me the following morning, LOL

DRC said...

I find sometimes all you need when struggling is a break and a chance to stand back and evaluate the picture as a whole - or evaluate the size of that mountain and all the different paths it offers. Another way is to discuss it with a friend/writer. Having a different opinion on those paths eases the burden of the uphill struggle. They may see something you don't and help you choose the easier path to the top. When struggling, having someone to fall on helps - and talking about it feeds inspiration and mojo...

Ruth Josse said...

I'm not sure I had mojo to begin with. But writing crap, I got down! :) Yep, pushing through is the only way through.

Kelley said...

I'm totally with you. Just write. And then when you go back to edit it the first time, expecting it all to be crap, there will be some parts where you're like...

'Holy crap, this part's not crap!'

Haha

Barbara Kloss said...

Oh,my gosh, I SO needed to read this right now. I feel like I'm just coming out of the "complete and utter wreck" phase.

Were you reading my mind? :D It is SO hard going from a story that has been edited and edited and edited for years, moving to a blank slate. You feel like you have the vocabulary and sentence structure of a 2 year old and that your imagination is about as colorful as a photo from the 1800s. At least I do.

After sludging through the bad writing, I'm FINALLY moving at a nice pace, seeing glimmers of hope in the "story that could be," but a lot of work must be done prior. *hits head on desk*

I always here Dory in my head..."Just keep swimming....just keep swimming..."

Bea Sempere (Denise Baer) said...

Wonderful post!

I lost my mojo. I just published and thought I'd start another project but I feel paralyzed. I have the same thoughts you had, and wanted to do a different writing project--humor. My mojo is still hiding.

I believe I will push forward, as you suggest, and start writing crap after crap. Hopefully that crap will become something.

Have a good day.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Ditto what Ruth said

Colin Smith said...

This is timely--I've had that same feeling recently.

Your post made me think about the times I've read a badly-written novel. I'm sure we've all read them. And what do we do? We pick it apart, tell ourselves what the author should have done here, and how this line could be improved, and how that dialog sucks and what would have worked better...

... well isn't our first draft like this badly-written novel? Except we know from the outset it's going to suck. The skill of the writer isn't always apparent in the first draft. It's in what we do with that draft, honing and crafting it into beautiful sentences and compelling reading.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Tonja said...

I believe writing is the only way to get it back.

prerna pickett said...

sometimes it takes time to write well, and editing is a big part of that. At times it takes about 15 mins of non-stop writing for me to get into my groove.

JeffO said...

Thanks for a nice, inspirational post.

I'm not sure that I lost my mojo, but I may have been working on the wrong story. I dusted off NaNo 2010 and decided it's worth salvaging, and have been mostly rewriting it from the start, but I'm just not feeling it. At the end of last week, I started thinking more and more about something that's been in *the back room* for a while, and started playing with it over the weekend. I think it's got the goods, and my writing on it feels much, much better.

Cassie Mae said...

I'm off to write some crap! I keep trying to pull out editing brain when it needs to be shut down for a while.

thanks for the reminder that it's okay that it's not perfect the first time around. :)

Kristine said...

Mines with exercising - and I think it's similar. After taking a break around the holidays, starting up again was hard. And I was more sore. And couldn't do as much as before.

Theresa said...

This happens to me more than I like to admit. I just have to step back. Walk away for awhile and not think about it. It always comes back at some random, unexpected time. Then I begin to read what I already have and I'm like this isn't so bad. It's actually pretty good. I wrote this? lol.

Cherie Reich said...

I hope getting the writing mojo back is easier than riding a bike after not riding one for a long time. You're completely right to start writing (even if it is crap) and keep writing. Maybe that'll help with bike riding too. Hm, at least writing doesn't require a helmet.

Leigh Ann said...

Oh, goodness. I'm kind of having the opposite problem. My CPs all agree that my first draft is awesome and they're all swooning over it, and then in the next sentence they start using words like "potential" and "seeds of awesomeness."

Code word: time to revise, sucker.

And they tell me what to revise, and I AGREE with them...but I just don't. know. how.

Revisions paralysis. Perhaps just as terrifying as drafting paralysis?

Glad you've got a tried and true system for getting the mojo back. Thanks for sharing with us. :)

Christa said...

I may possibly have just written a draft of total crap. I am hamstrung by the revision process which means I need to take a week and breathe and then get back to it. This is very difficult for me. But I wish you luck with drafting!!!

David P. King said...

This was exactly my problem two years ago. Now I'm in a "I forgot how to edit" phase. It's reasons like this that I think writing flash fiction is helpful. You edit and edit and pause every now and then to draft a short 300 word story. I plan to post more flash fiction in the future. :)

Angela Brown said...

I don't know if I can call it my mojo so much as just a quiet muse.

My thing has always been what you recommend here: write something that is possibly quite horrible, but it helps to spark the muse, or in this case, the mojo.

Some chocolate helps too. And making my daughter laugh. Yeah, both very helpful.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

When I am stuck one of the best things I can do is critique for someone. It really gets me excited about their work and that leaks over into my own work.

Loved the pictures!

BECKY said...

Have I ever lost my mojo?? Are you kidding?? I lose it every other week!! So, don't feel alone!

Jessie Humphries said...

My mojo is wearing camoflauge. My mojo is as tiny as a needle hiding in field of hay. My mojo has superhuman powers and can be invisible whenever it wants. So no, you are not the only one being screwed by your mojo! :).

Iain said...

It took 8 years after writing my first book to finding an idea for a second one. After that I've always edited and written at the same time, so that I don't forget how.
Also, I think you must have been subconsciously thinking "It's like riding a bike: You never forget how to fall off." Or something like that.

J. A. Bennett said...

I lose my MOJO when I edit. In fact, right now, I'm there. I HATE editing.

Leigh Covington said...

This is awesome Peggy! Very inspiring and very true. Honestly - this is how I feel with my first draft of my current WIP. I keep trying to tell myself not to worry about the first draft being awesome. That what editing and revising are for! :)

Charlie Holmberg said...

I am TOTALLY going through this right now. Every time I start a new project I flail like a fish in Sprite and wonder how the crap I ever accomplished anything with my life. XD All I can tell my writing group right now is "OH MY GOSH THIS MANUSCRIPT IS SO AWKWARD."

Hard to remind myself that the rough draft is allowed to suck after doing revision after revision in attempts to make something perfect.

Thanks for the post (and the hope)!

Taffy said...

that bike wreck pic is awful! But a great point.
I lost my mojo over Christmas break and am still trying to get in the groove. The other day I just sat down and typed away without thinking. I'm a panster usually but this latest WIP is kick my pants (get it??).
Tomorrow I sit and write. And eat chocolate. And listen to The Cure.

Thanks, Peggy!

Krista M said...

I've lost my mojo a couple of times in the past few months and your advice is spot on. It is like riding a bike. You fall off and have to get back on to be able to ride again. I loved that picture too! :)

The Golden Eagle said...

This is kinda my situation right now. I'm reading through the first draft of a project I'll be rewriting soon, and I'm wondering where I'm supposed to start--it looks like I'm just going to have to power through the crap until it starts to come together.

Alleged Author said...

Sometimes the only way I can get going is by writing crap. Funny, huh? But it definitely works!

Carrie Butler said...

...But I never learned how to ride a bike!

Oh well. Great post! Like you, I regain my mojo by writing crap until I gain momentum. :)

Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

Great post! Sounds like you got on the right track and have your mojo going again!! I know your new book will be awesome!!

Leigh Covington said...

Thanks for the heads up on the twitter link on my giveaway! AHHH! I am afraid to fix it in the widget so I will have to make a note of it. I don't want to lose everyone's entries if I fix it. Glad you let me know! :)

Rachel Pudelek said...

I'm looking for my editing mojo. Can't seem to locate it. :)

Laura Josephsen said...

It is SO HARD to go from polishing and editing to starting from scratch on a new draft. I struggled with that a lot last year, between editing two books, publishing one, and banging my forehead on the wall trying to come up with an organized plot. But I finally got my mojo back, made tons of progress on one novel, and finished two others! All in about three months, LOL. It was WONDERFUL to hit that point where things start to flow again. Just keep pedaling! It does get easier. And then harder again. And then easier. The cycle of writing...

Hannah Hounshell said...

Too true. When I've been slaving over a piece of artwork and I'm so depressed because it looks like crap, I always try to remember that it's going to get worse before it gets better. It seems like every craft has it's ugly stage for each project you do, but once you get past the narly bits, the rest just flies together, and it's like magic. All is right with the world and you feel so relieved to have it all behind you at last...

And then you get to do it all over again with the next project, lol. :)p

Jade Hart said...

I agree. It's more like marco polo! I"m screaming at the top of my lungs... 'marco!' and the mojo justs sinks down and doesn't answer. Who ever said writing a book was easy... well, they never wrote a book!!! :)

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

So funny - I read a mojo post on Angela Brown's blog yesterday! It must be a common problem right about now. Certainly it's a problem for me! And I don't know the answer to getting it back, but I think your suggestion is a good one and I'm going to have to try it - nothing I've tried has worked so far! Love your analogy. And good luck getting your mojo back - I hope mine won't be far behind :)

WilyBCool said...

I had lost my complete motivation and inspiration for almost a week and then, one good nights sleep and I feel great! For me, I think it's being emotionally run down. ;D Great one!!!

bethchristopher.com said...

This is a timely post to read, as I've been in revising/editing mode for the last year. I'm starting on my second novel and am a bit scared that the muse/mojo might have forgotten where I live. Thanks for the good advice!

Love your blog and congrats on your upcoming book!