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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Muse: Help or Hindrance? by Maya Blake

The Muse: Help or Hindrance?

Definition 1: “Muse” - Greek Mythology - Any one of the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus.
Definition 2: “muse” - to think deeply and at length.

As a (newish) published writer, I’ve often pondered the existence of the first using the second definition. Sure, there are times when your writing is going so well, your story sparkling so brightly, you can feel a tingle down your spine. But then there are the other times every writer dreads, when you can’t face the computer or notepad, when fingernails are bitten down to stumps, when the words completely dry up and it seems all nine daughters have deserted you for white washed beaches, hammocks and pina coladas in far flung places. Those times that send an altogether different tingle down your spine when you’re absolutely convinced your writing career is over.

As writers, professional or otherwise, are we doing ourselves a disservice by relying on this mythical Muse (I have, more times that I care to name!) when really thinking deeply and at length would help progress our writing?

While we ponder that, let’s ponder another problem. Once you’ve finally realised your dream of becoming a published author, acquired an agent and/or editor and very strict deadlines or at least a rough idea as to when you need to finish a project, what happens then? After taking a year or three to write “the story of your heart”, now all of a sudden you’re faced with writing another story within a strict time frame.

If you’re lucky enough to be in this situation, do you seriously have time to wait for your elusive Muse to jet in from her round-the-world cruise and grace you with her presence, or do you resort to the tried and true BISFOK (Bum In Seat, Fingers On Keyboard) approach?

For those who rely on the former, how do you finish your stories in a set timeframe? For those who use the latter, do you still manage to write “the story of your heart”?

I’d still love to hear your thoughts, whether you write professionally or not.

Have a lovely day and happy writing.


Hostage To Love by Maya Blake
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Katie said...

I used to wait for the muses. Any one of the nine would be welcomed, but certainly, the more the merrier.

But then, I kept reading and researching, and most of the successful people suggested treating writing as a business with a quarterly plan, with set goals and guidelines, all that formal crap.

While I haven't sat down to formulate my quarterly business plan, I have begun writing every day, no matter how badly I think it's going.

I haven't had any coffee, so I'm sure this didn't come off as amusing so far, but now we get to the serious stuff. I decided the whole 'muse' thing was a cop out, me playing Prima Donna. Writers write. BISHOK FTW!!! Now, I haven't been successful every day, but I am having more success than I did courting ethereal beings!


P.L. Parker said...

I try to write at least some every day. Keeps the story fresh in my mind. Not always successful, but it's the only plan that seems to work for me.


Bonnie J. Doerr said...

Muse, schmooze. We are our own muse. Take the germ of an idea, shadows of characters, and a vague map of a locale and begin. Writing isn't just putting the story on paper. It can start with getting to know your characters. Have fun. Find appropriate photos in magazines (of people and locales) if it helps. People watch in interesting places and take notes of conversations and body language. What can you apply to your characters? Interview potential characters and take notes. Throw them into different situations to see how they respond. Play around a bit before you start your chapter by chapter tapping. Ask your stars and supporting actors what would you do if? Then put them in the IF. In my mind, that's all part of writing. When the chapter by chapter begins, stop at a point where you know what will happen next. Then the next page won't be so scary. Look at it all as a puzzle and just mess around with the pieces until they fit together. No, don't wait for an external muse and don't be intimidated by thinking that only tapping out pages of a chapter is actual writing. Once you get into the playfulness,start formulating the puzzle pieces, you may not be able to stop until they begin to fall into place. And if you get stuck, go back to the play for a while. It's all part of writing. Well, it works for me. Usually...

Maya said...

Hey Katie, I used to wait for the "Muse" too, until my husband (who works in the media and has to write a story at the drop of a hat) asked me how I'd cope if I ever got to the position of having deadlines. That certainly got me thinking! BISFOK doesn't always work for me, but practising makes the difference between having a blank page and having actual words on paper. Now my "Muse" knows she whether she graces me with her presence or not, I'm getting on with things!


Jennifer Ross said...

Why did you have to go ruin a perfect excuse for me? The muse was on holiday, nothing I could do about it.

Hurrumph, now I can't use that anymore. I like the idea of "playing" with my story, it certainly sounds better than sitting and staring at a blank computer screen.

Maya said...

LOL, Bonnie. My writing plan isn't as detailed as yours, but it sounds eerily like what my husband rattled out to me a couple of months ago when I was wasting writing time "muse-hunting"! Seems like a winning formula to me. Thanks for stopping by.


Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. When I first started writing, there was nothing as thrilling as that inspiration that just seemed to flow. I didn't panic at the first hiccup, I just waited until the next outpouring.

Years later, I have become much more familiar with the business side of writing. This is my job. You work at your job everyday whether you 'feel' inspired or not. And so I did. Whether I liked it or not, good or not: I wrote. Burn out threatened. The joy was gone.

It took another writer friend to point out to me that it's both. I am an artist and a business woman. While I can't wait for any muse, I do know a trick or two to lure one closer and I don't write a certain scenes unless I 'feel' them. There is plenty to do in the meantime.

Also, sometimes *looks around* I write something I know I'll never publish just for fun. That helps too.

I'm writing this pre-coffee too so forgive, well, you know. : )

Maya said...

Writerlynne, I'm glad you've found a happy medium! Losing the joy of writing can't be fun and writing for the fun of it sounds like a brilliant idea.


Susan Macatee said...

I never wait for a muse. I just set a certain time that I plan to write and do it. Then wherever I left off the day before, I do a very quick review and pick up where I left off the day before.

And I've become a firm believer in plotting out each scene before I ever start writing the first draft.

Felicity Kates said...

I think a "muse" is just what artists of all kinds call their creative drive. Sometimes it's bubbling right under the surface and takes no effort to tap into. Sometimes it seems like you need a full drilling rig to find anything, it's so far away. But thought and discipline go hand in hand when writing a novel. Sure wish I had some! :)

Maya said...

Hmmm, Felicity, I think mine whizzes through at 3am in the morning and buries itself deep when I need it!


Mary Ricksen said...

It's all about mood. Are you in writing mood. Thinking happy thoughts, getting ideas, having a good day. So you write.
But, if your car breaks down, you sister pisses you off, your wonderful child breaks the rules and the school has called you to come in, would you feel like writing a love story then.
So good mood, productive=Muse present
Bad mood, useless head=Muse gone. So is there a muse or just a mood?

D.D. Scott said...

Fabulous topic, Maya, and right up my alley as a writer's-go-to-gal for Muse Therapy!

You absolutely can't wait til your muse decides to help you out. To up your page counts, you've got to anaylyze your muses' funks and rein in your creative divas.

I'm teaching both online classes and live workshops on this very thing!

I'd love to see you all "in therapy"! Check out my class schedule at http://www.DDScott.com

Sexy, Sassy, Smart Muse Therapy Wishes --- D. D. Scott

Maya said...

Hmm, Mary, sometimes my way of dealing with life's blehs is to write because writing takes me into a totally different world. And if something even remotely coherent comes out of that, all good, right?


Maya said...

DD, good to see you here. You're a muse therapist? How intriguing! You've certainly tweaked my interest! Will check out your website.


Tanya Hanson said...

Very interesting post, Maya. Like Mary, I definitely am more inspired when I'm happy. My hubby battled (successfully, praise God) cancer and chemo last year, and it was such a harrowing time, I found I couldn't write a word. I'm catching up now LOL.


Sutton Fox said...

Thoughtful post, Maya. I used to think I could force my muse into submission, and I did for awhile. And then she fought back. Not sure who's winning at this point, but it's definitely more about just getting words on the page, than waiting for that single moment of inspiration.

Maya said...

Tanya, so glad to hear your husband came through his ordeal okay. Happy, happy writing!


Maya said...

I agree, Sutton. Getting the words down is the most important thing, Muse inspired or not. That way, you have something tangible to work with. Glad you stopped by.


Piper Denna said...

My muse won't come around at all until I disconnect from email programs and the internet. I'm positively helpless when I see a new message drop into my Inbox.

Beyond that, I can write if I'm worried or sad, but not if I'm angry. Nothing works right when we're mad! :)

Maya said...

Soooo, it looks like the general consensus is...as writers, we try and write whenever we can, do the best with what comes to us and hope that it's sends the all-important tingle down not only our spines, but (more importantly) those of our readers. Thanks for stopping by ladies, it's been great chatting with you. Also, thanks to the YouGottaRead team for the lovely invite. I've had a blast.


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