Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Musing on Muses: the Fickle Nature of Inspiration


I think back to why I became a writer to begin with. It all started with a germ of an idea…multiplied by a hundred. Two hundred! Notebooks full of ideas: good ideas, rotten ideas. They popped into my head at the most random and inconvenient of times. And I loved every minute of it.

Now I realize we all have ideas. It’s the implementing of these ideas that creates the problem. Yes, it’s a lovely idea. Can you write about it for 250 pages or more? Will it hold someone’s interest for that long? What exactly is the plot conflict for this idea? Is it fresh? Does it have a hook?

Looking at “The Dream of the Poet or, The Kiss of the Muse” by Paul Cezanne (above, obviously) makes me slightly ill. Did Cezanne feel this way? Gosh, he must have—look at his body of work. An angel, coming from the heavens to kiss your furrowed brow and deliver the goods.

Lucky guy.

Not that I’m bitter or anything. But my relationship with my muse is..strained at best. In fact, we’ve not been on speaking terms for years now.

So what do we do with such uncooperative muses? Didn’t they realize we had an appointment with them? That we’re here, laptops in place, large mugs of coffee on our end tables, and an eager ear for their words of inspiration?

We plow ahead. One word at a time. Yes, it’s a blank page. Maybe what we’re covering it with isn’t much better than a blank page. But it’s a point to edit from. You can’t make something better if there’s nothing there.

Things I do while my muse is AWOL:

Work on a different section of the book than the one I’m currently stuck on.

Brainstorm: See how many ideas I can come up with---for the next two pages. Just the next two pages. Baby steps…

Research something pertaining to my book.

Edit a few pages. Sometimes reading back over something I’ve already written can get ideas flowing again.

Change the scenery: Run some errands. Find inspiration in the little things (jot little descriptions of the people I run across as I’m out, settings I see, the feel of the weather that day as I walk around.)

Hope my muse is the forgiving type and doesn’t carry a grudge for too much longer…

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays. I’m taking a short blog break for Christmas and reposting some of my older posts from 2009. Thanks so much to everyone for making my blogging year a happy one.