Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets
This blog first appeared on Writer’s Fun Zone
I’m not a fan of Sara Gilbert per se, but she delivered a great TED talk on the Muse. Based on that talk (the Muse must have been pleased with her TED talk) she has a book, Big Magic. I bought it hard cover, I’ve read the whole thing, I liked it much better than that other book of hers. I talk about the Muse all the time, and Gilbert does a good job defining the Muse and what it means for authors.
In the past, writers and artists were not so much responsible for their creative work as they were honored to be the instruments of creative inspiration. The artist was simply a medium for a greater power to flow through them and create work that needed to be born into the world.
As passive as that sounds – that we are merely hands, eyes and bodies at the service of a capricious god, it does take some of the pressure off.
If we are channeling the Muse, then a dry spell, the inability to produce great art, is not entirely the direct result of bad character or lack of will power. However, it may mean that you angered your god.
Think back, did you leave the right offering at the feet of your Muse? Did you remember to thank her for the last creative rush, the one that left you exhausted and spent but also gloriously alive?
Did you wait around, burning your incense, leaving cookies and brandy, yet she never came and you just spent a month staring at a blank screen? And now you’re pissed?
That’ s the conundrum. Wait for inspiration? Worship, pray and hope? Or, as Jack London suggested, hunt down inspiration with a bat.
You don’t need a bat. It is possible to encourage the Muse to visit on a daily basis. Contrary to popular lore, the Muse responds well to schedules. She will often drop by at the same time each day. Your job is to discover when that is and be there when she visits.
Gertrude Stein once said of the writing process, “It will come if it is there and if you will let it come.”
But for the writing to come, you may have to nudge it along by finding a consistent source of inspiration. Stein claimed her best ideas came to her while she was driving around in her car looking at cows. She would write for only 30 minutes a day, driving around a farm and stopping at different cows until she found the one that most fit her mood.
Barring counting cows follow the advice of many, including me: show up.
If the Muse knows you’re home, she is more likely to stop by.
For the first weeks, you may show up in good faith but the Muse may not reciprocate. She may be wandering around your house, checking the base boards for dust, reading the books in your library and judging if you are really serious, or if you’re actually playing Candy Crush and it just looks like you’re working. The Muse is not that easily fooled. To attract the Muse, you need to be writing.
And by writing I mean anything you want, anything that comes to mind. Like warming up the water in the shower, you turn on the words, let them flow and pretty soon they will become the right temperature, and you then can step into the shower and relish the flow.
I believe in the Muse, I believe in luring her to my side with promises of wine, chocolate, and attentive listening. I believe in thanking her for her efforts on my behalf. And if I could, I would book her as a guest on Newbie Writers Podcast.
Make your offering today. Your writing will start to improve by tomorrow. I swear by the wild red hair of my Muse.