Saturday, March 08, 2008

Writing: Wrestling with the Muse

Writing is a crazy process. Or is it that the process makes me sound crazy?

Did you ever see the episode of Malcolm in the Middle where Francis, who is away at military school, isn't pulling his weight on a joint research project? The student he's working with gets so annoyed with him, he locks Francis into a totally empty dorm room to finish his project. No distractions, right? Well, when he comes back, he finds that Francis has done none of his work, and instead has spent the time unraveling his sweater and winding the yarn around the room.

That's me sometimes. When, no matter what, I cannot get my mind to engage in the project at hand.

Then, there are the other times, when I get so far engrossed in a project that I feel like I'm in a state of deep concentration. Where everything feels easy. It flows and it makes sense. And it feels so good I don't want it to end. Time slips away. I can't get my brain to shut off.

Sounds a little manic and depressive, huh?

But those are the two extremes. The reality is the time in between. When I'm trying to work and it's just plain old... work. Each paragraph is a labor. That's what I've been experiencing a lot lately. If writing is something I want to do so badly, why is it so difficult?

I know it's not unique to me.

The Internet is full of communities meant to help writers tame their muse. Ever heard of Book in a Week? NaNoWrite Month? 100 Words a Day?

Some writers resort to setting timers. I remember reading an author interview somewhere -- I think it was Dan Brown -- and the author said he used an hour glass.

I need to find some strategy that gets me back on track again. (And, no, my husband standing over me making threats doesn't work. We've tried that. It just makes me bitter.)

Ultimately, I know it comes down to that old piece of writer's advice: Plant your butt in a chair and just do it.


  1. Absolutely! I have to convince myself that I am writing a rough draft and that I can turn the junk that comes out first into something much better, but sometimes it's just hard looking at the screen or paper and seeing imperfection. Writing is a process, you don't have to get it right the first time, you just have to get it out. Once that's done you can work your magic.
    I love those moments where everything just seems to flow out in perfect harmony but counting on those moments and only writing when they occur is very counterproductive. You have to hunt the muse, not just wait for it to stop by for tea.


  2. Yeah, that tea thing hasn't been working out very well for me. That doesn't seem to be the Muse's beverage of choice.

    I have a Nora Roberts quote up on my bulletin board that says: "I can fix a bad page, but I can't fix a blank one."

    So, I'm giving myself permission to write a crappy first draft. We'll see what kind of magic I can work with that. :)


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