From an online dictionary:

muse: noun

  1. (in Greek and Roman mythology) each of nine goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who preside over the arts and sciences.
  2. a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.

As writers and artistic creators, we know what it’s like to be inspired by a muse. For me personally, it amounts to daemonic possession. I sometimes become driven to write something that insists upon being expressed: a snippet of dialogue, a scene, a story, subplot…the list goes on. Sleep beckons, but the muse is unrelenting. And when sleep manages to intercede, I am prone to wake with new inspiration driving me to make a note, record a message to myself, or even return to my office and proceed with fingers to keyboard, in the zone, channeling the muse-deamon that refuses to allow me to rest, infected as it were with the only remedy being to write, write, write, write. Disregard the eye strain, sleep deprivation, aching neck muscles and celebrate the moment because it may be fleeting, or it may continue unabated. You just never know because there is a fickle character to this whole muse thing. Surf the big wave while the surfing is great and celebrate the moment while it lasts.

Okay…I could go on, but you get the idea. I don’t know what other writers experience. I have spoken with some who completely understand this possession, but we are a varied lot, so perhaps it isn’t universal. I for one am an undisciplined writer. I do not write every day, a practice so many successful and accomplished authors recommend (which could explain my limited success). Like a streaky baseball hitter, I can go from slump to hot streak—from no muse at all to complete immersion and full throttle. While I relish the muse taking over and writing while in the zone, of late I’ve been contemplating something I now refer to as the anti-muse.

I don’t have a hard and fast definition of the anti-muse, but the bite of this daemon is every bit as potent. I envision it as a many-headed Hydra with poisonous venom. Once bitten, I am overcome with a certain paralysis. Alternatively, the anti-muse is a Medusa whose eye-catching glance turns me into stone. In either case, the result is the same—don’t care to write at all. Wild horses can’t drag me to or away from writing because I’m not inclined at the moment. For me, this is not writer’s block (I don’t believe in that) so much as non-interest in writing.

I’ve come across a number of different articles, posts, YouTube videos and the like that address creativity, what goes into it, and how to release your creative potential. I suppose a form of the anti-muse (one of the Hydra heads) could be somehow wrapped up in creativity.

Motivation and getting motivated is a bit of a tired topic these days, filled with gurus and Tony Robbins wannabes who want to teach you to reach your full potential (blah, blah, blah). I’m willing to put lack of motivation as one of the Hydra heads. Although, somewhere is this paragraph the notion of ambition needs elaboration. Is lack of motivation the same as lack of ambition? If I felt more motivated I might actually look up the difference between motivation and ambition but I’m not that ambitious. Besides, Caesar was ambitious, and things didn’t work out that well for him. I’m going to imagine the original Hydra head was cut and these two other heads sprang forth, one with the venom of anti-motivation, the other with the venom of anti-ambition.

Stress, time pressures, competing priorities—do I need to elaborate on any of these? Other things occupy the mind and time while effectively blocking the muse from entering.

Procrastination? I know an author who made a career writing books and giving workshops and seminars about procrastination. When the procrastination bug bites writing is simply put off until tomorrow. Even better, as the saying goes, “Don’t do it today when you can put it off until tomorrow and don’t do it tomorrow if you can put it off all together.” That’s probably not an exact quote but you get the idea. Procrastination is a very effective anti-muse.

Of course, the entire notion of laziness belongs in this conversation. I’ve certainly experienced feeling lazy when it comes to writing. In fact, this feeling can last for days or even weeks. This is by no means being sluggish or depressed as energy and upbeat mood can coexist very nicely with the kind of writing laziness I’ve experienced.

Another anti-writing infection can loosely be categorized under distractions. Heck, there are many other ways to spend my time and many of them are more enjoyable and more attractive than sitting down to write, especially if I’m not quite in a writing mood. Distractions are another head to this anti-muse Hydra.

The same can be said of excuses. There seems to be no limit to the possible excuses I can come up with to rationalize why I should not be writing today or at least at any particular moment. Here I am not talking about basic needs such as eating, sleeping, and personal hygiene. Do I really need to elaborate on a long personal list of rationalizations?

My individual list detailing the anti-muse has thus far included:

  • lapse in creativity
  • lack of motivation/ambition
  • stress from a multitude of sources
  • time pressures
  • competing priorities
  • procrastination
  • laziness
  • distractions
  • excuses/rationalizations

I suspect my own personal list is longer and with more reflection I can uncover some more bullet points representing additional heads to this beastly monster that is the daemon that takes tight hold and refuses to let go, that paralyses me into not writing.

With such a monstrosity representing my anti-muse, it’s amazing that I get any writing done at all.

Just wondering what categories you can add to the list. A fellow writer suggested I author a self-help book directed to writers to address blocks to writing (not writer’s block, more along the lines of what I am calling the anti-muse). In fact, that discussion is what provoked me to think about the topic. This colleague even claimed to know a publisher who was interested in the topic.

As for me, I think I can invoke several different reasons why I certainly am unlikely to get bitten by a muse to write such a book.


When is “done” done?

– by Victor Acquista

I recently completed a novel. Well, I think I completed it. But I’m not sure. I have doubts, uncertainties, and insecurities. Am I really finished? Would another round of edits, or input from additional beta readers spot something or provide input that leads me to change something, improve something, give the writing additional buff and shine?

How do you know when a work is done to final completion? How do you decide? When all is said and done, any work can undoubtedly be improved. Where is the point to invoke the law of diminishing returns?

Recently, I’ve immersed myself into the world and nuances of editing. Macro and micro editing, developmental, line, content, and copyediting, constitute a confusing maze to negotiate. Do I trust an editor to tell me everything is good to go?

This particular novel is written under contract with a publisher. At the end of the day, they decide if and when the book is ready to be published. If I was self-publishing, the decision is entirely my own. In this particular instance, I am responsible for providing a finished work that is “editorially acceptable”. That designation is a term of art. Isn’t there something subjective about what is or is not acceptable? Where is the line drawn? How am I to know? Have I indeed finished this particular novel?

I want to provide a fully polished work-product that is as good as I can make it given my writing skill set and level of accomplishment. Am I at that point with my current work? Is now the time to submit it? Would another set of eyes see something that I am missing? When you are fully immersed in a plot and characters, when you have read and reread, and tweaked things ad nauseum, objectivity is lost.

When do you say, “enough is enough”? How can you make that determination? Is there a process, a guideline, an invocation or end-ritual to help determine that I am done? When is “done” done?

About Writers, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Sharing some thoughts and experiences about the Authors Guild

By Victor Acquista

Liz BNo,  it isn’t: “a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power” (although, that would be pretty cool), but it is: “an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal”.

I mentioned the Authors Guild in a previous comment and GD suggested I provide some information. I never really thought too much about it, but there is something medieval sounding about joining and being part of a guild. I assure you, the AG is very up to date on what is going on in the world of writing and publishing and can be a very solid resource to support writers professionally. This will primarily be a cut and paste post with information from their website: https://www.authorsguild.org/

Our mission is to support working writers. We advocate for the rights of writers by supporting free speech, fair contracts, and copyright. We create community and we fight for a living wage.


The Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for writers. Since its beginnings over a century ago, we have served as the collective voice of American authors.

Our members include novelists, historians, journalists, and poets—traditionally and independently published—as well as literary agents and representatives of writers’ estates.

The Guild advocates for authors on issues of copyright, fair contracts, free speech and tax fairness, and has initiated lawsuits in defense of authors’ rights, where necessary. We represent authors on the Hill, in state legislatures, and in government agencies. And we work to establish fair royalty rates for both e-books and print books.

Our members have access to a broad range of legal and web services. The Guild’s legal staff reviews members’ book and freelance contracts and intervenes in publishing disputes. We provide liability insurance at group rates, a Back-in-Print program, and a free subscription to our quarterly Bulletin, as well as host and help develop members’ websites. Our new, re-designed website includes a more robust member directory (searchable by numerous categories), an events calendar, daily and weekly news updates, digital archives of the Bulletin and recorded seminars. We also hold in-person and phone-in seminars and symposia on issues critical to the writing life, and more informal gatherings throughout the country.

Information about membership can be found here: https://www.authorsguild.org/join/

Here are some of the salient details:


  • Traditionally published authors
  • Self-published authors
  • Poets
  • Translators
  • Ghostwriters
  • Illustrators
  • Freelance writers
  • Writers who’ve received a contract offer
  • Writers working on a manuscript
  • College & Grad Students
  • Literary Agents
  • Editors
  • Attorneys
  • Estates/Heirs

Regular Membership: Traditionally published authors with at least 1 published book in the U.S.; self-published authors who have made at least $5,000 in the past 18 months from their writing; and freelance writers who have published 3+ pieces or made $5,000 in the past 18 months.

Associate Membership: Writers who have received a contract offer from a traditional U.S. publisher or an offer of representation from a U.S. literary agent; self-published authors or freelance writers who have made at least $500 in the past 18 months from their writing.

There are other membership categories including for students and emerging writers. Standard dues are $125 annually.

I have personally met the Executive Director, Mary Rasenberger, when she hosted a meeting for Guild members in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area. She traveled to selected places throughout the country to talk about the Guild, some of the current issues facing authors, what’s happening with lobbying efforts to advocate for authors, boost membership, and a host of other issues. I found the presentation to be excellent and it provided a wonderful opportunity to meet other authors and hear about their experiences and concerns.

I have participated in writing groups, attended conferences and workshops, and generally been involved with a number of professional activities related to writing. As an organization, I feel as though the Guild is working on my behalf to advocate for authors and to be a resource. This type of involvement is quite different from the other professional activities that I just mentioned. I found my publicist through the Guild’s resource network and felt confidant that the Guild would not recommend a shoddy company. I have used the Guild’s legal services on two different occasions. I worked with the Guild in notifying them about a problem with Kindle royalties not posting correctly after I learned from Amazon that the problem involved multiple authors. Although Amazon did correct the royalty issue, I know the AG got involved. I have also used their resource library a number of times.

I could probably go on, but if you aren’t interested enough to poke around their website to learn more from what I’ve shared thus far, the Authors Guild probably is not your cup of tea. As you can tell, I think they are a fine organization. Final comment—I always include the fact that I am a member of the AG in my query letters. I don’t know if it helps or not, but in my mind it conveys something positive.



About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Writing to Raise Consciousness—Meaning and Intent

“Writing to Raise Consciousness”–it’s my tagline, my author branding. Since I write both fiction and nonfiction, it might seem challenging to wrap both types of writing into the same package. Eyebrows raise, faces morph into puzzled expressions, and people ask the obvious: “What do you mean? What do you mean when you make a statement saying you want to write in ways that raise consciousness? Please explain…”

Ask ten people to define “consciousness” and you will likely get ten different answers. Even among scholars who study consciousness from scientific, philosophical, and metaphysical perspectives, there is little agreement about what consciousness actually is. Without agreed upon definitional characteristics, how do I attempt to raise or elevate something we are not clear about and may not even be able to measure or quantify at all? It isn’t like raising the temperature of something through a process of heating. It isn’t like inciting a riot with inflammatory rhetoric. Physics and sociology have ways of measuring those processes.

Is this a blind men problem—trying to describe an elephant, each with only a fragmented understanding? Is this some sort of dark matter/dark energy construct—useful in trying to understand something we really do not understand? Am I deluding myself in thinking I can write ‘stuff’ that is going to actually raise consciousness? To complicate matters further, while playing my own Devil’s Advocate, if one believes consciousness is infinite and beyond constructs of space and time, then you cannot raise, elevate, expand, or increase it in any way. X + infinity still = infinity. In some ways, it is a thorny thicket.

Despite these challenges, I do not back down from my intent to raise consciousness through my writing, nor do I move from my belief that I can actually do so. The method to achieve this works at different levels or dimensions. It also hopefully works on both individual and collective consciousness.

The first level is rather simple and straightforward. There is widespread agreement that a relationship exists between consciousness and awareness. Precisely what that relationship is can be difficult to say, but for purposes of this argument, let us simply posit that awareness and consciousness are related. If I write something about a particular social ill such as violence, or racism, or children sex-slaves, and my writing (fiction or nonfiction) calls attention to this social ill, makes people more aware of the problem, I have raised consciousness at this level.

There is a long history of literature calling attention to social injustice. To name a few examples:

  • The horror of war—Johnny Got Your Gun
  • Racial prejudice—To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Exploitation of immigrants—The Jungle

There is another type of ‘calling attention to an issue’ that goes beyond social ills. Authors often write about potential problems that might occur in order to raise awareness, to get readers to think about a particular issue. What if artificial intelligence got out of control as in Terminator? What would an Orwellian 1984 future of government control and propaganda be like? These topics are often explored in speculative fiction. Robert Heinlein, one of my favorite science fiction authors, often addresses social themes in his writing. In many ways, his writing helps to raise consciousness at this first level. My science fiction novel, Sentient, calls attention to certain social themes. Isolation/separation and how this contributes to competition over cooperation, how we treat people with mental illness, and acculturation to violence are just a few of the issues I touch upon. In my nonfiction book, Pathways to Health, I am asking readers to think about health in a different way, to recognize the distortions and limitations that characterize our beliefs about our own health and how we can achieve better health.

What underlies this first-level approach to raising consciousness is to call attention, to get the reader to notice or to think about something in an introspective way. The process is one of raising awareness so as to effect change. The change may be in a belief, an action or behavior of some sort. This touches upon the second-level, i.e. evolution. I’ll loosely go with a broad definition of evolution as the gradual development of something. The key piece here is “development”–something that occurs as change over time. In this sense, writing to raise consciousness represents an effort to support and promote the evolution of consciousness both on an individual and collective level.

This type of development follows a sequence, much the same as a child first learns to crawl, then walk, then run. This represents increasing motor skill and developmental maturity. On a psychological level, the ego develops along a sequence of self-centered ‘me’ to expanding awareness of others–family, nation, the world, the universe. This is a natural progression of awareness and an evolution of consciousness. This change is accompanied by new ways of thinking, believing, and behaving.

A similar developmental sequence occurs as part of spiritual growth and maturation. Some teachings explain this spiritual evolution as following a path toward enlightenment. I am particularly fond of Integral Theory and how it characterizes the different stages of growth and development along a psycho-spiritual evolution (outward) and involution (inward) path. I am also fond of David Hawkins’ Map of Human Consciousness that delineates characteristic thoughts, beliefs, and actions accompanying each developmental stage of the evolution of consciousness. When I write, sometimes I intend to raise consciousness by getting readers to think differently, to challenge beliefs, to expand and grow in their consciousness. In some ways this represents personal growth and transformation toward a higher level of consciousness. I have often had this experience myself when reading the wisdom of a variety of spiritual teachers. Some of the chapters in my book, Health Wise—Integral Lessons in Transformation, are specifically targeted towards raising consciousness at this second level.

I’ll touch upon the third level more briefly. I also write with the intention of raising consciousness in a much more indigenous way. My explanation thus far has focused on raising awareness and consciousness at the individual level and more broadly at the collective level of society. I also believe that there is a planetary aspect to consciousness that also follows a developmental or evolutionary sequence. The term, “Noosphere” was first coined by Teilhard de Chardin. Basically, you can think of this as not only our specie’s, but the entire planet’s collective consciousness. Such consciousness exists as part of an entire cosmic consciousness. Our planet’s noosphere is evolving towards an expanded capacity as part of the natural evolution of planetary consciousness. This theory/belief is expounded upon in some detail by José Argüelles in his book, Manifesto for the Noosphere.

Many have written about the great shift in consciousness occurring during these times. Rather than writing about this shift or about the noosphere, I am writing with the specific desire of facilitating the shift to occur, to making my small contribution toward the evolution of our planetary consciousness. My individual consciousness, my thoughts and behaviors, and specifically my writing are all generally intended towards promoting the expansion of the noosphere. In my book, Sentient, when I am writing about telepathy and collective consciousness, these are processes associated with the noosphere. Yet, whether or not anyone reads anything that I have written, anything that I do, write, or even think potentially influences the collective planetary consciousness at this third level.

Complicated…straightforward…perfectly muddy? I don’t expect the typical reader to really understand what I mean by, “Writing to Raise Consciousness”. In some ways, it doesn’t matter if a reader understands my intent, my goal. What matters to me is whether or not something I have written has the intended outcome. Does it work? Am I successful in achieving my goal? I don’t know for sure, but if you are at least thinking about these things, feeling a bit introspective, wondering about your own consciousness or the greater collective consciousness, then perhaps I have had some small success. I think of this effort applied in three different dimensions at which I can potentially raise consciousness. In some small way, I hope what I have written has been instrumental in raising your consciousness…


A naked short story

JPEG cover art   I’m still trying to determine whether this is a worthwhile endeavor. Self-publishing a short story all by its lonesome self provokes an internal debate–are you serious vs. why not? Is this a lame attempt to make my author page look better or a legitimate way to get my work out there?

It could be that the answer includes a bit of both. I tried several mainstream sci-fi magazines and kept getting rejected. Is this because the story or the writing is not very good? Is this because I have not yet built up my writing credentials to be given serious consideration? Are there other reasons to explain the editorial decision making? In all honesty, I am not in a position to say.

Yet, I’ve written a story and I would like to get it out to prospective readers. Publishing this solo gets the job done. At the end of the story under the  “About the author…” blurb, I put in a plug for a sci-fi novel I’ve written (and happens to be published by a small press). My thoughts are if a reader likes the short story, perhaps they will purchase the novel. At some point I’ll give the story away as a “loss-leader” to try and generate sales of other things I have written. As a marketing tool, I think the stand-alone short story might have utility.

I welcome all feedback positive or negative about the story, the writing, the cover, and the rationale for self-publishing a naked short. If you send me an email (victoracquista@victoracquista.com) I will gladly send you a pdf file, a gift copy through Amazon, or both. It’s a quick read at less than 5K words. To stimulate curiosity, here is a blurb:

A reclusive physicist vanishes.
A brilliant, unexplained flash of light.
A mysterious spherical void.
A blackboard equation filled with complex calculations, a portion inexplicably missing.
A government cover up.
All explained in this classic sci-fi short story…