Writerly Wednesday #1: My Muse Is Gone. She’s A Bad-Word Spewing Teen With Tasteless Eyewear. Have You Seen Her?
I had an idea! Wednesdays posts will be exclusively about the journey of writing. Today’s post is about the loss of the muse. I originally posted this in February of 2011, a year and a half before Falling For Your Madness was written. So, apparently, my muse (at least this one) took her own sweet time to show up. Come to think of it, the muse I had for FFYM wasn’t her at all. Nevertheless, this is about what inspires us to write and what happens when we can’t. Next Wednesday I’ll post something else about writing and probably not mention profanity.
For the last two months, I’ve been dueling with a work-in-progress that I’ve affectionately named Skippy. I even considered breaking up with him completely, since I wasn’t completely over my manuscript. (Sigh.) My new WIP was going no where. No story. No fun. No gripping characters. I was bored, so figured my readers (both of them) would be bored too.
There for a moment, I thought I’d just keep the setting, (which had potential) and just start over with the story. But I only got as far as a hapless Johnny Appleseed re-enacter and he was going nowhere. (At least no where that the citizens of Leominster, MA — Appleseed’s birthplace — would want me to take him.)
My conclusion is this: my muse is gone.
My muse is not someone I particularly love. She’s short, wears an Izod shirt, Nikes and Levi 501′s. She has bottle blonde hair and plastic frame glasses that dip down on the side. She’s only fifteen, but she has a mouth like a longshoreman and never, ever smiles, unless I trip on my band shoes and fall flat on my face. My muse, sadly, looks a lot like the mean girls from my childhood and she’s there, smirking, telling me that I’m not going to amount to anything.
She’s the one that gets smaller and smaller with every successful word. Maybe that’s why she’s gone. I have, after all, completed a manuscript and I’m going to actually query agents very soon. Maybe she has no more power over me and now I am in need of a new muse. Perhaps one that encourages me. Perhaps one who has better taste in eyewear.
So, if she’s gone. I don’t have anyone to prod me into success. Which means I also don’t have any new ideas. Now what?
I could force some crazy story. But I’m not sure that’s the best path. I’ve tried this for two months and all it’s done is make me feel guilty for not putting in my 2K a day. Then another muse pops up, this one looks a lot like Ernest Hemingway in the latter days. He pours a shot of whiskey, silently toasts me and says, “Go fold laundry, you’re not a real writer.” He’s just as powerful as the other muse, maybe it’s all that profanity. While he certainly qualifies as a real writer, he’s not someone who I should model my writer life after. Although, I might consider the cigarettes if I don’t get an idea soon.
Perhaps this is where the torture in tortured soul comes from. I have way too many imaginary people bugging the poo out of me. I don’t need this. All I need is an idea. Or at least a more supportive muse.
Yesterday at church I was thinking about other areas in my life that work out without forced effort: the spiritual education I impart to my children, the “family culture” of jokes and games that makes us who we are, the way that my new friends have accepted me, the way I tweet. All of these things are easy. They float out of me, they are not forced. I don’t think that I am misguided to believe that the next novel I write will come with a similar ease. (Not that there won’t be moments of sweat, there will, but the story itself will be easy.)
So, what do I do in the meantime? In The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron suggests that artists need to be filled up in order to create. Perhaps this “post-partum” season in my writing life should be a time of filling up. So, I think that means for me: reading a novel a week and watching back episodes of 30 Rock. (Don’t laugh.Arrested Development inspired me in my first novel.)
It also means I can spend a little time building that mysterious platform. I can tweet. I can blog. I can contribute some non-fiction work to my church’s blog. I can sculpt that perfect query.
If my muse shows up someday. I’ll be ready. Although I think she’ll look a lot more like those high school journalism and English teachers, who also wore those drop plastic frames. They all said, “We knew you could do it! We knew you could do it!” The strongest word they use is “POO!” and their strongest drink is coffee.