Writing Fear Free

Musings on Muses

via www.jimchines.com

I don’t have a muse.

There. I said it.

No watery tart whispers the plots of novels in my ear. And really, it’s too bad because writing would be a lot easier if I had one. I’d never have to think or toil over a manuscript again.

As I’ve said before, I believe writing is part art and part science. Unfortunately, the science of writing–the actual process that happens in a writer’s brain that produces a great book–has really never been studied and quantified, thus resulting in the myth of the muse. We don’t quite know how something works, so it’s got to be magic, right?

But Jennifer, how do you explain those moments of writing glory when the worlds flow so smoothly from a writer’s fingertips to the page? That sure seems magical. And it is. It’s the magic of your own thoughts, experiences, and abilities all working together to produce a story. Whenever a scene comes easily to me, I think it’s because I’ve pondered the book enough to know, seemingly without conscious thought at the precise moment I sit to write, what needs to happen. It’s not magic, but it is that glorious moment when everything is working in harmony.

Unfortunately, sometimes things are not in harmony. Sometimes I haven’t thought enough about a scene or the overall picture of a book, and the process grinds to a halt. Lots of people call this “writer’s block,” and they put the book away, sit back, and get depressed as they wait for their muse to whisper again. Frankly, I don’t like the whole idea of “writer’s block” because it gives me the impression that I am again at the mercy of a muse or that some uncontrollable magical flow of words has stopped.

When I’m stumped, I take a break from the computer and I think. I think about the book, the characters, the arc. Sometimes I think about horses or movies or Doctor Who to give my brain a break from the novel. Then I come back and think about plot and characters again and experiment with some of the options I’ve come up with. After a lot of rearranging and rewriting, the novel begins to progress again.

So what am I trying to say? Writing isn’t magic. It’s hard work, and when the going gets tough, we have to persevere, push through, in order to emerge victorious on the other side, published novel in hand. Otherwise, you risk ending up like Brian Griffin and his unfinished novel.

So how do you think of muses and writer’s block?

5 thoughts on “Musings on Muses

  1. True story, when I was pregnant with Maddie I had a reoccurring dream that I gave birth to Stewie Griffin. For the first two weeks of her life I was just waiting for her to turn around and say “‘ello Mother” with a bad British accent.

    I don’t have a muse either. I need the dude with a gun…that might help.

  2. I am so glad you didn’t have a Stewie! His matricidal tendencies are in direct conflict with my desire for you to live and finish AWAKE so I can read it!!!!

    1. He does have some serious mother issues. I am so close on Awake. As in, I have nothing left to do but wait for the last half to be finished with the copy editor…which is why I actually started working on my missing scene list from AE last night. So overwhelming. I crossed one thing off my add or change list (of 23 things) though. So, um, yay!

  3. I love the Stewie bit! Awesome! Sadly, I would have to answer yes to most of his questions…at least I would have answered that way about two weeks ago before I finally finished my novel! I’m hoping the process will go much quicker now that I know I can do this. Thanks for your words here. Well put.

  4. Gotta love that Jim Chimes cartoon 🙂
    Jennifer, I’m reminded of Edison’s comment that “Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
    So I’d agree that once you have an idea, bringing it to fruition is lots of toil. I tend to act out scenes and dialogue in my head for a while before committing to paper. And then of course rewriting and finessing with that gun to my head.
    For writers, patience really is a virtue.

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