Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Temper, Temper

As I mentioned in the blogfest post, lately Sarah and I have been doing nothing but shouting at one another. I was growing frustrated because I hadn’t written a word of fiction since mid-April, and whenever I came to Sarah, I got a rather biting rejection or, on the two good days, glimpses of a new heroine and her city and the sorts of things she does for fun, but still no real information.

And as I said in that last post, I pinned the blame on Sarah. That I did not know the heroine’s name was her fault. It was her job to give me that helping hand so I could run with the story. My lack of inspiration was her fault.

And I lashed out in response to the lack of information.

I knew nothing, friends. I still know nothing. I don’t know her name or the name of her city, or her occupation, or even what kind of story I am writing.

How was I supposed to work with that?

I assumed Sarah wasn’t talking because she’s a cold-hearted ice queen. As a result, I flew into a rage, and the shouting matches followed suit.

Then, in the midst of an all-nighter, I came to a realization. Our Muses do not know everything.

If your Muse is silent, it isn’t because they don’t want you to work, it’s because they don’t know anything. Sarah wasn’t telling me new heroine’s name because she did not know; still doesn’t know, even, as she now has given me two much unrelated names. Yelling and screaming wouldn’t solve anything. Of course it wouldn’t. I am very, very bad at maths. If you put a trigonometric equation in front of me odds are good I will screw it up big time, but getting angry with me won’t make me be right next time. Rather, I’ll just get upset and be unable to focus, and therefore do worse on the next problem.

So if your Muse is quiet, let it be quiet. Obviously you should talk to it, but don’t try to pressure them into offering up anything, because it just won’t come, or if it does come, it will be very scant and only drive you further up the wall. But if you sit back and build a genuine relationship with your Muse, they will give you what you need once they know it.

Earlier a friend found my ramblings scribbled by hand and he said he failed to understand why we had to be nice to our Muse instead of make it work for us. At first I laughed because he hasn’t written in a thing in about a year, but then I went on to explain my all-nighter-induced viewpoint.

Of course we are the ones who ultimately write the story. It is up to us to take what we are given and craft it into a story, but how many of you can make a good story from nothing? We all need that spark of inspiration, somewhere, somehow.

In my case, I think I set myself up the wrong way when I came to write crime fiction. In the past, I would plan ahead a little bit, but for the most part everything was just whatever came to mind, right from the get-go. Then of course with crime fiction, some extra planning is necessary. You have to know the criminal and crime from the get-go. From this, I started planning characters way more in depth and such, and it kind of became a hindrance.

I needed to know more about this city. I needed to know more about this woman.

Knowledge is power. Lack of knowledge meant lack of ability to write.

However, Sarah and I have made peace, at least for the time being. Yeah, I don’t know anything at all about this story. I don’t even know the genre or the basic plotline, let alone names of people and places, and you know what? I love it.

It’s been years since I’ve written anything like this. These little experiments I’m writing now are very, very bad, but they’re a great way to introduce myself to the young lady. Rather than deciding where she’s from and what her (at least origin) personality will be, I’m actually letting myself get familiar with her and her city, even if it is at a much slower pace than both of us would wish.

It’s exciting. I look forward to the end of my day so I can just plunk down in my thinking chair, close my eyes, and let myself be carried to that place across the sea. In the case of Llanwerth, I knew whole the textbook history of the place, from the Great Depression to 2011, the year in which the book was set. Yes, I could close my eyes and watch that city grow in real time, but it was just a setting. Window dressing. The city was of no consequence to that story; it was fictional only to give myself more control.

New City, on the other hand, I know very little about. I’ve seen some of the major places and glanced down a couple of side streets. I can tell you basically where in the world it is (like new heroine’s name, it’s a toss-up between two places, although this time they’re kind of close), but that’s about it. I don’t know when it was founded, or what happened even just a few weeks ago. All I know is what I’ve seen.

I like that. Not knowing is the best thing to have ever happened to my writing.

So the next time your Muse only gives you only a sentence or the name of a character, don’t complain about having writer’s block. Don’t scream and demand it give you more information.

Instead, go to your favorite place to write, kick up your feet, and run with that spark your Muse has given you. It’s your job to turn that spark into a roaring fire, not theirs. And who knows? Maybe that little spark will be the best thing ever to have happened to your writing, too.

P.S. My shirt today is really yellow. It looked regular yellow in the store, but when I put it on this morning it was like WHOA yellow. Just thought you all should know.


  1. DUDE I NEVER hit my muse, she totes PWNES me anyway. She's all smart and quick with the reflexes. Also, she runs with zombies etc, so she's quite hardcore

    See? Isn't it fun not knowning? That's what I love about my writing style, the finding out along the way.

    Glad to hear you're writing etc :)

  2. My muse is a fickle beast. Sometimes they are all helpful, and other times they are napping and refuse to wake up. I medicate me, but I think I might need to medicate them instead.