Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Don't rely on the Muse

A few days ago, I made a Facebook post about writing 4000+ words in just a few hours and made the off-hand comment that my Muse was with me. A former student wrote to say she hadn't seen her Muse in quite some time. We had a good conversation and I sincerely hope she can get her story moving again.

We writers are an independent lot. We write where we will, when we will, how we will. No one tells novelists what story they should write--it all comes out of our own imaginations. Yes, we get inspired by others' artworks,  music, even their stories. But our own creations are exactly that: our own creations to the point where writers compare themselves to God (don't believe me? Type "writer as god" into Google and you'll get 168 BILLION hits, give or take a few).

But there's a problem with being god-like: we don't have anyone else to blame when we can't be creative. "You're the god of your story! What do you mean, you don't know what happens next? Make it up!" We've all heard that well-meant advice from non-writers who don't understand the creative process. They don't understand that, sometimes, the ideas just aren't there.

Of course, sometimes writers don't understand that either.

And, because of our fierce independence, we don't realize that other writers have the same problem.

We've come up with ways to lay the blame, of course. Because, Heaven forbid it should be our fault. We'd lose our god-hood if we couldn't write, couldn't control the actions of our fictitious characters, characters who, in our minds, are real people. If it were our fault that we couldn't figure out what happened next or our fault that the words were clumsy and didn't say what we really meant--that would be a personal failure.

And no one likes to fail.

So we blame others. We say we have "writer's block" as if someone else built a wall between us and our imagination. Or we say the Muse has left us, as if our creativity lived outside us and had moved to someone else's house. We feel washed-up, weary, wrung out with worry--and sure that we never will write another word.

But writing is work. And all work is sometimes easy, sometimes hard. When I say hard, I'm not talking about all the procrastination tools we have to keep us from staring at that darn story that just won't move, I'm talking about the willpower to sit there and stare that page down and write something. Anything. You can cut it out later, but putting the butt in chair and forcing the fingers to type words isn't easy.

That's one way to get over the hump (another way of saying, "Not my fault. Someone put a speedbump in front of my creativity!"). Another is to walk away for a day or two. No longer! We set patterns in our lives, routines that keep us sane. Sitting down to write is part of a routine. Walk away from it for more than a few days and the routine is disrupted.

But that disruption can help. "Sharpen the saw" Steven Covey says. Go do something else and when you come back, you do so with a fresh mind. In that Facebook conversation, I suggested reading a book, doing crossword puzzles--keeping the mind engaged in some manner, but allowing the story to simmer on the back burner for a few days.

Both these methods work.

What doesn't work is throwing up your hands and saying, "My Muse has left me" and then doing nothing about it.

We are writers. We write. Period.

Play safe,


Lynn LaFleur said...

Great post, Diana! I love to make cards and scrapbook, so when I feel my muse has taken a vacation and the words won't come, I turn to another creative outlet. It does help, since my book is always bubbling in a little corner of my brain.

Diana Hunter said...

And I love your cards, Lynn! Scrapbooking helps the visual creative part of the brain and I'm sure it's linked to the writing part. Letting the story "bubble" is a great way to assure yourself it'll be there the next time you sit down to write.