I’ve said about a million times that I don’t have a muse, and I don’t believe in “writer’s block” in the traditional sense. “My muse is silent. I have writer’s block.” Gah! What does this really mean? Words were flowing and now, they have stopped flowing. It makes me crazy. First, this implies that something outside of the writer’s mind is controlling the flow of words. And second, there is no reason for the words to have stopped except for the muse’s whimsy.
The reason the concept of the muse exists is because writing is a complex system that is not easy to explain. In order to write a novel, one has to master a great many concepts. You begin the process at a young age and never stop learning and evolving. You’ve got to know the alphabet, learn words, learn to write and speak in sentences, learn grammar, grasp underlying word meanings, understand plot structure, learn to create characters…I could go on and on. What makes it more “muse-like” is that many of the tasks necessary for writing a novel become so ingrained and automatic that it seems as if we’re not having to think about them at all. It’s become subconscious.
Writer’s block happens when some problem or imbalance takes the subconscious process into the conscious mind. That’s when writers say that the muse is silent or the characters aren’t speaking to them anymore. But what has really happened is that they have some problem that they must work out with their conscious mind. They have to decide the nature of the problem and then solve it before they can return to writing by feel or instinct or muscle memory or whatever you want to call it.
Progress on Moral Hazard slowed for this very reason. Something wasn’t right with the book, and I had to figure out what it was so that I could fix it. Without spoiling the plot, I can say this: I had no ending. Every other novel I’ve written has started with the ending, and I write toward that. With Moral Hazard, I had no definite goal.
Now I have a definite goal, an ending–and boy is it a doozy–and I’m back on track.