Friday, June 13, 2008
Writing and the Muse
Sorry, I was unable to post this week, but work required me to be out of town. As a general rule, my plan is to post every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, so if I miss one, you know I'm probably traveling.
In the meantime, I'd like to thank all the great blogs out there that have been so supportive of me, especially the Plot Whisperer, Word Stumpet, the Writer's Mentor and Me, My Muse and I. If you don't already have those earmarked, your missing out on some sage advice.
All of which brings me today's topic. The Muse.
I may inflame some controversy with this, and I hope not to offend, but I've attended enough writing seminars to know that there are a large number of people in love with the thought of writing, but not the work of writing itself. You may have seen some them, women and men, wrapped up in a romantic fantasy about the life of a writer. Women sharing a Jane Austen fantasy, where they wear flowing gowns, walking leisurely through rose gardens, strolling until that beautiful moment when inspiration strikes, the muse arrives, and they're carried on a warm wind to their waiting pen and paper. The men tend to have more of a Papa Hemingway fantasy, reclusive and isolated, enmeshed in their world of hurt, until the muse helps them to express all the true sentiment in their hearts.
Most of these people will never become successful writers. Most will never complete a finished book. Some may, most won't.
Stories don't come on the wings of fairies, sprinkled into our ears with a trace of pixie dust. Writing can't wait until you feel inspired, or until the heart is bursting full to capacity.
Writing is work. Writing is a job. Writing is commitment.
As I'm typing this. It is 4:57 am. I've been up since 3:30. My agent wants this revision finished. My editor wants this revision finished. The publisher won't wait until I feel inspired or motivated to write. They want it now. And just as importantly, I want to give it to them now. Fortunately, early morning hours are good times for me. I wake up easily (three dogs that want breakfast at 4:00 am each morning see to that) but I don't wake up this early by choice. It's a commitment. I'm committed to being a writer, the best writer I can be. And more than inspiration, more than motivation, more than a muse, it requires time.
Since the first of my many $1 million checks hasn't arrived from the publisher or Hollywood yet, I have a day job. I also have a wife, a son and three Lhasa Apsos, and I love to spend time with all them. The only way I could squeeze all this into a 24 hour day was to give up something, and that was my mornings. So each day, saturday and sunday included, I get out of bed at 4:00 am, feed my doggies, make my coffee and head to my writing office. I try to get three hours in each weekday before the family awakes, 5 or 6 hours on the weekends. I bring my computer on work trips and family vacations. My schedule never changes.
Certainly, some mornings I'm more awake than others, or more productive. But it doesn't matter. Each day, I'm there. And that's important. To make that commitment to being at your writing desk, no matter where it is, each day. Some days it will flow, some days you'll struggle, but you'll be writing. And hopefully, you'll find, as I do, that the more you write, even when you don't want to, the easier writing becomes. It's as if you create some sort of writing "muscle memory," a reflex that kicks you into writing mode, even when the muse hasn't visited.
I'm not saying that what I do is the best way, or the only way. It may not even be sane. But it is the only way it works for me, to get in the necessary time, feeding the writing beast.
And to me, that's what writing is. It's not an enchanted forest where I run away to explore new worlds full of magical creatures, or a garden to stroll through in endless meditation. I create those places and worlds in my writing. No, the act of writing itself is a beast, a multi-headed monster that needs to be fed every day, rain or shine, whether you feel like feeding it or not. But don't worry, it is a beast that can be tamed, taught to do amazing tricks, return to you what you give it in multiples, but a beast nonetheless.
Writing is a job. A commitment. A necessity.