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Friday, December 27, 2013

Bypassing the Muse: Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard


Do you sit around and wait for your Muse to pay you a visit? Maybe spend some time playing a little of her favorite music, watching a movie in her/your chosen genre, or just taking a walk, hoping to lure her in, all the while praying for that creative lightning to strike? 

That doesn't work for me. My Muse is elusive, not to mention sneaky. She generally pops into my head when I'm elbow deep in canning tomatoes, or on a long walk with two dogs that have no intention of going home yet and seem to be, in fact, training to pull a sled, even though they both top out at just under thirty pounds. 

I am a martyr to my dogs and always have been; they know I'm a weakling where they're concerned and they take full advantage.  

So there I am, jamming tomatoes into jars, juice running everywhere or, conversely, trailing like a kite behind a dog who is a past master at ignoring me. And of course, that's the very instant when my Muse pops in. Why don't you write a story, she says…this would be a great scene, she murmurs…this is how you need to fix that problem in chapter seven, she lectures…
 
So I've given up on luring her in, because let's face it: the woman has no sense of timing. If she'd just show up when there's a pencil around, for gosh sake. I don't even insist on my computer. But no….. No, she obviously gets a giggle out of watching me try to trace plot points and outlines—if I could outline, that is, which is a whole other story—into the dirt, punctuated by doggie footprints and other, less savory, dog creations. 

So I've found a way, not to defeat her, but to circumvent her. I write. Every day, and if I'm lucky, at the same time every day. I know you've seen this advice from other writers and you've probably thought: It may work for them, dull and disciplined hacks as they are, but I'm an ARTIST. I have to wait for inspiration. 

Bull. What you have to wait for is the time, every day, when you plunk your butt down in your chair, put those hands on that keyboard or grab that pen, and start filling up that leering, sneering empty space on the screen or notebook in front of you. Write. Write character descriptions if you're stuck on the story. Write future story ideas and plot outlines if you're blocked on your current WIP. Write dialogue between your major—or your minor—characters. Heck, write your character's grocery list for her; you'll probably learn lots of new things about her. 

Butt in chair. Hands on keyboard. And…write.

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