Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Muse is a Bitch

OK, time to get back to talking about writing...
This woman is one of the biggest pain in the necks of writers.  She sometimes sits on her high horse and withholds information we need to make a living.  Sometimes she speaks so much we can't shut her out.  Either way, we're stuck living with her.

I'm talking about the dreaded Muse, the one who gives us our material.

Of course, boiled down to its essence, this is nothing more than our own imagination.  What can we come up with today?  Do we have enough to work with?  We may have a great idea, but if we can't put the meat on the bone, then our idea is hollow and won't stand up.

The Muse is a fickle creature.  There have been days when the writing just gushes from my fingertips.  When I'm really feeling it, I can write upwards of 7000 words without batting an eye.  In fact, the biggest worry at that point is not to overdo it, because running too fast can burn out the engine.  At the same time, I've had days where the Muse won't say a word.

How often have we sat at our computer, knowing we needed to punch out 2000 words for that day, but the screen simply stares back at us?  We have no idea what the heck is going on, because yesterday we were in the zone and our words flowed out effortlessly.  Today, however, there's nothing.  We begin to bargain with the Muse - "Please help me figure out the way this scene is supposed to go and I promise I'll donate my organs to needy kids when I die" or "If you'll help me write, I promise I'll devote more time to it."  Of course, these pleas never work, but that doesn't stop us.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the Muse is when she'll give us inspiration in fragments, spitting out a paragraph here and half a page there, before shutting up again and giving us the silent treatment.  I've gotten halfway through a riveting scene when I'll suddenly stop, uncertain of what the next step should be.  This is where an outline helps, because you can refer back to it and say, "Oh yeah, that's where I was going."  But what if you've outwritten your outline?  That has happened to me before(in fact, it just happened with Wrongful Death), and isn't a problem if you're in the zone.  However, if you hit a wall - either you ran out of material or you made the mistake of stopping for the day - you're stuck staring at that blank screen again.

I wish there was a magic potion that imbibed us with all the imagination and prose we needed, but even the most prolific writers have prayed to the Muse, only to find her silent(Stephen King complains about this all the time).  Until then, we simply have to press through and try to force her into speaking.  Sometimes that requires sitting in front of our computer and waiting(to the layman, this looks remarkably like daydreaming), because we'll rarely know if sitting there will be another hour of wasted time or the most productive hour of the day.


  1. Ugh too true! Lately I have been focusing on a variety of goals for my writing and I think that has helped. But sometimes I'm lucky if a sentence goes down on paper. I hate those days. Other days I wish I had 48 hours in a day than just 24 so I can get to writing. Here's to the future pill they create that is insta-muse!

    1. Nicole, if they ever make that pill, I know I'd buy it. Of course, I wonder what an overdose would feel like. :-P