Monday, April 27, 2015

A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Muse

Okay. Now I'm finally back. Obviously, I'm ridiculously behind, so I'm not really hoping to finish the A to Z Challenge in time.

Someone suggested that I just drop in on today's letter, but the thing is... I just don't want to do that. I was really enjoying writing these posts, so it just feels a bit off for me to skip like half the alphabet in an attempt to conform to some sort of arbitrary expectation.

Sorry if I'm sounding like I'm being all faux academic. Really, I'm not. I'm really just pulling words out of the ether as I'm writing this. And the post will go live as soon as I'm done. I know, I know. I wouldn't even be in this pickle if I'd just scheduled posts ahead but... You know what? I like living on the edge even if I fall off every now and then.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanyway.

What I'm going to do is change the name a bit and call my posts for the A to Z Challenge (and Beyond) the A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing and then I'm just going to keep going on my own time until the posts are done.

Maybe, when I'm done, I might decide to start another A to Z series, because I'm enjoying the mental acrobatics involved, but we'll see. In the meantime:

Today, I'm at M, which in my mind stands for Muse.

No, not the band - although they're EPIC.

I'm talking about the muse. Your muse. My muse. Different muses.

I used to write about mine (even in passing) much more than I do these days. Mostly, it's because someone ALWAYS comments that "Muses don't exist and you should just write". And although this is sort of true, it's a bit tiring to keep explaining that I'm not really all airy fairy in my approach to writing. (I think my recent monthly posts on my writing progress might have convinced people of this. But there you go.)

I suspect, from those "Muses don't exist" comments that not all writers have the same experience as me. Or if they do, they've shoved their muse into some faraway corner of their imagination in an effort to simplify their writing process. Which is, of course, just as valid an approach to writing as mine.

This is still important for everyone to know, though, so even if you're rolling your eyes, shush a moment longer and pay attention.

See, whatever you think, you as a writer need to make sure you have a healthy relationship with your writing. Your muse, if you will.

The way I look at it, my creativity in general and my writing creativity specifically comes from some place other than my writing thought. So I'm a very intuitive writer, I suppose, writing words down literally as they come to me. (Although the words do sometimes come faster than I can write them down.) There is, however, not much along the lines of conscious thought to my writing efforts. Especially when I'm drafting fiction.

So for me, the muse idea works, in the sense of it's a psychological embodiment of my creative efforts. So to me, it's not a question of muses existing or not. Mine (both of them) exist because I called them into existence the same way I call my characters into existence. (In fact, one of my muses is one of my characters in my fantasy series.)

However, you might prefer to call a muse your creativity, or your dedication to a story, or your desire to write a story down, or the million little moments of inspiration that go into creating a story. That's exactly what a muse is.

I just call them my muses because it's a bit catchier.

Now that I have that sorted, let me get to the important things you should know about muses.

1) Muses are very erratic creatures, so you can't sit around waiting for them to inspire you to write.
2) Muses can (and will, if you let them) bury you under new ideas. In a sense, that's their job. Your job is to finish ideas one at a time so you can actually call things done.

That's pretty much it, really. Muses give you ideas, but they don't give you the determination or dedication to your story that you'll need to finish it. You will, however, find that if you show dedication and determination, your muse will be kinder to you.

Not always, mind you. But if you commit to finishing a story until that commitment is part of your process, your muse will give you the inspiration needed to know what you should be writing down.

But read this and absorb it:

Muses don't make us want to write. 

That comes from our dedication to and love of our story. It took me a while to learn this, which is why I'm putting this bluntly. The sooner you learn this, the sooner you'll become an efficient writer.

Do you believe in muses? What's yours like? What's the biggest lesson you've learned about your creative process? 

13 comments:

A Beer For The Shower said...

Muses are real. As stupid as it sounds, my muse is my wife. And you're right, muses don't make us want to write. They just help us out when we're a little stuck.

So whenever I get stuck I talk about my story with my wife, and she always helps me work through a solution.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If a muse can be a person, then I also can claim my wife and one of my critique partners.

aldersgrove said...

This is the most rational post on Muses I have ever read, and it's very to the point. The muse provides ideas. It's up to the rest of our brain to do the rest.

Rachel Pattinson said...

This is a great post, Misha - I don't know what my muse is, but my partner definitely helps me out whenever I'm truly stuck. Glad to see you're back!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I like to think that muses are real, but lately I think the part of my brain that is constantly worrying about my dissertation and academic job prospects has been silencing my muse, unfortunately.

Shah Wharton said...

My muse is the world around me and the experiences I have (had). Sometimes it floods my head with ideas, like you say, others it's like I'm staring at a blank wall.

shahwharton.com

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Welcome back!

I'm glad you decided to finish the A to Z in your own time.

I can see why people created the idea of muses, because when it's working well, the act of writing can seem like it's coming from something external. It seems magical, or even eerie.

I call my muses my subconscious, but I very much believe in it and respect its power.

Jolie du Pre said...

Muses are real, but I don't let them control me. Meaning, I write whether the muse is there or not. Eventually, my words will flows. Also, I try not to compare my writing life to other authors. We're all different. Some people can't write unless their muse is present. Others, like me, can. Finally, it doesn't matter if you're late with your A to Z posts. Again, this is a situation of comparing yourself with other writers. Try not to do it. You do what you need to do FOR YOU. What other people do or don't do doesn't matter.

Precious Monsters

Click said...

I wouldn't say that I have a muse as such, but when I'm writing I get sparks of inspiration. Sometimes from dreams, or things I've read, or places I've been.

I guess in a way that's a type of muse.

Cait @ Click's Clan

Annalisa Crawford said...

I need my muse. For me it's the embodiment of the idea, the spark, the perfect moment where all my thoughts converge and the story becomes obvious.

I definitely cannot just sit down and write at 9am every morning. It works for many people, but for me it turns a creative art into a mundane job.

Annalisa, writing A-Z vignettes, at Wake Up, Eat, Write, Sleep

J Lenni Dorner said...

I'm pretty sure Muse was a Greek God, or lesser God, or something like that.

Muse will show up to those who work hard and earn the reward of an appearance. Much like Santa, who only comes to children who are nice. (Yeah, I know, there's more than one flaw in that comparison. But whatever, it sounded good in my head!)

Somali K Chakrabarti said...

Muse for me are the sudden moments of inspiration or when the flow for writing gets formed in my mind. These could be the shower moments or ideas generated during a conversation. Enjoyed your post on Muse.
Somali @Life11

Misha Gericke said...

Beer dude, you seriously have to let me know which one you are. I can't keep track. :-P Either way, you're lucky to have such a supportive wife.

Alex, sure she can be. You and the beer dude are in good company. Another guy who claims his wife as a muse is Stephen King - although he calls her his "ideal reader" if I remember correctly.

Thanks Aldersgrove. :-)

Rachel, sometimes muses can be people too.

Workaholic, work stress definitely makes muses less talkative.

Shah I'm the same.

JH, I also usually refer to my subconscious most of the time to prevent the confusion about muses.

Jolie, I agree with you 100%. I've found that trying to write even when I don't feel particularly inspired means that now, inspiration generally comes to me BECAUSE I've sat down to write.

Click, that's often how my muse works too. I guess the difference here is I called it "my muse".

Annalisa, I know what you mean. To an extent, I'm the same, but I've been working on being disciplined on writing every day (or as close to it as possible). WHAT I write, however, depends completely on what my muse feels like, which keeps things fun. Luckily I can do that because I can work on multiple projects at a time.

Lenni, there were actually five muses (I think) each lesser gods working for Apollo and each representing some sort of art. They did, however, work in the way you described, which I suppose is why we still use the term in writing.

Somali, same here. Thanks for stopping by!