Friday, August 31, 2012

Nursing the Muse

I have often heard writers refer to their talent or ability to write as courting the muse.  That's truer than one mine think but not exactly right.  A muse is a fickle thing if we believe mythology and one's writing ability can be equally unreliable.  But the muse is said to be the source of inspiration and has none, at least as far as I know, with the ability to string words things. If you can't do that, all the inspiration in the world isn't going to get you very far.

During my months of being burned out, it was exact the ability -- stringing words together -- that was missing and had to be relearned.  I had to remember how to play with sentences, words, phrases, metaphors, and all that good stuff to express myself.

If you can do that but don't know what to focus on, that's more a muse problem.  Perhaps, you are a new writer looking to get started, or an established writer who is dry spell.  What do you do?  Well, attracting a muse is like a wizard summoning a familiar, although the wizard will probably have better luck because the muse will often ignore any attempt at being summoning.

And you can't put out food the way you would for a mouse, or perhaps Santa, and hope something will happen.  Rather, I find the muse goes where he or she will.  Your best bet is to keep a journal and do a lot of free writing.  For those who don't know about free writing, let me explain.  It is a technique where you write for five minutes to fifteen minutes non-stop.  You don't worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. You just write.  Later you can go back and see what you've done. Sometimes you get stuck and repeat the same word half way down the page.  Other times you hit gold and you make a connection you never saw before.  That's the calling card of the muse.  That means the muse is in the area and ready to help you.

The best way to reciprocate is to keep writing.

Of course this is a little over simplified and each person will be different.  I say this because the writer in a dry spell sometimes has a much harder time regain old skills that the new writer starting out.  The reason for this is simple; the experienced writer knows how the work on a story should go when everything is working right and this person may self-censor too soon.

This is understandable but unnecessary.  Chances are good that writing for the experienced writer will not be the way he or she remembers them; they might be better or they might not.  And the reason for the difference is the writer him/herself. The important thing to remember here is that writing has takes time.  Time to draft, time to revise and revise and revise.  It takes a commitment to the writing, which is kinda like maintaining a large web site raised a few orders of magnitude. Work on the writing only stops when it goes out into the world.  Until then most writers will want to hone and craft what they are writing.

But above all, writing takes time to reflect. It is in reflection that a writer sees when he or she is going and sometimes how to get there.  Without reflection, the writer walks blindly in a darkened room without a light source hoping to find his or her way.

I say all this not to scare anyone but to information and remember all writers about the essential element that our craft requires.

So if you have a muse, nurse it, feed it, and take care of it.

If you are looking for one, good luck.  And while you are searching, keep writing.

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