Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Elusive Muse

Today I'm welcoming Sherry Gloag to Terry's Place. Sherry lives in the beautiful English county of Norfolk and considers the surrounding countryside an extension to her garden. When she is not writing she enjoys reading, gardening, crystal craft work and walking. While out walking she often enjoys lengthy conversations with both, her characters and, if she has not gone ‘walk-about’, her muse.

I'm sure some of you remember the novelty song, They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! While this song may be about a ‘mutt’, it could just as easily be about a writers’ elusive muse. You know the one that suddenly decides to take off for the day, muse– week – month- year, when you sit down to transfer that wonderful idea into the computer the! The hardest thing for most writers to do is to write.

Sometimes, when I sit down and attempt to transfer that ‘amazing’ idea for a story into a word document, something happens. That idea shifts like smoke and evaporates before I can capture it. And I swear I hear my muse laughing at me. It is so frustrating. I’m just glad to know I’m in good company. Even writers such as Paul Valery, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Maeve Binchy and Morris West have all announced, at one time or another, their intention to quit writing then carried on.

But wait! Does this mean the writer always relies of their muse to create a book? It shouldn’t.

Not unless you name your muse ‘Discipline’. You can have the most wonderful ideas in the world but if those ideas don’t transpose to the page then they’re not worth the time you spent thinking about them.

It’s easy to feel discouraged when time after time your ideas vanish into the ether the instant you start typing. Don’t give up or give in! If writing is the path your heart’s desire. No matter how many times you start and stop or how often you try to avoid it because of the anxiety it creates, the important thing is don’t give up.

But like anything worth striving for discipline is the answer. Write everyday. It doesn’t matter what, just write until begins to flow and becomes an integral part of your daily routine.

Writing garbage is O.K. as long as you are writing. You can go back and fix it later. Every writer experiences times when they are not connecting with their story and writing becomes a struggle. That doesn't mean you've lost your muse, or burnt out creatively. It just means you have a structural problem in your story or with character motivation and you need to work out what it is that is blocking your forward progress.

This is the time for author honesty. Start asking whether you’ve tried to force the pace, direction or integrity of the plot. Have you overlooked something that with a little tweaking would bring you back on track? Or… have you overridden what and where your characters want to be?

Next time your muse takes flight don’t bother getting down on your knees and begging? She won’t come back until you discover why she left.

That way, there’ll be no need for ‘those nice young men in their clean white coats’ to cart you off to the ‘funny farm’.

While writing my current novel, Duty Calls, released by Black Opal Books on February 11th, my muse took off far more often than I appreciated. But it wasn’t until I wrote The Brat, my debut novel that I chanced upon trying my hand at writing short stories when my muse took off. Since I have now had six shorts published I am grateful she inadvertently pushed me in a new direction I would have otherwise have missed.

For more about Sherry and her books, visit her website, her blog, or her Facebook page.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sound advice. By giving ourselves permission to write garbage, we usually free ourselves to be creative. :)

Sherry Gloag said...

Thanks for coming by Elizabeth, our muses can be such fickle creatures, can't they?