Tag Archives: writer’s block

Guest Post #5 — Erin Kendall Surviving My Muse

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I seem to have met a lot of great writers on the message board of the Author Who Shall Not be Named. Erin is another one I met there. Erin has written a VERY interesting Fae/Vampire novel and she’s also a lovely poet.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that one has a muse.  No, I’m not funny in the head.  I know it’s actually my subconscious, but personifying her (yes, she’s female) helps me handle her.  Especially when she’s being difficult.

It’s funny.  I’ll sit here at my desk staring into space, trying to come up with something that passes for good in my eyes (and I am very hard on myself), and my muse will be quiet.  No whispers, no movement, nothing.  I’ll poke at her a few times to see if she’s awake (maybe she’s dead?) and she’ll just…be…gone.

But when I’m not at my desk and ready for ideas?  Oh boy.  I think she takes a perverse pleasure in watching me flail.

Today at work I was copying down addresses and phone numbers.  The most tedious work ever.  So I’m doing my thing, and my muse finally decides to grace me with her presence (should I do a curtsy?).  She’s like, “hey, we need to do this and this and this with this project” and she starts shooting me scene ideas, complete with dialogue and emotions.  What, can’t I just take dictation?  No?  Suffice to say I had to try to commit everything to memory and hope for the best.  Crazy fucking muse.

So later on I’m washing my hands and she perks up.  “Hey, you know, we should do something with this unfinished Nano thing from 2009.”  Again with the details, scenes, and dialogue.  I’m rolling my eyes because that’s not even on the schedule — for this year or next.  Crazy fucking muse.

Once, she held an intervention because I was having a bout of writer’s block and wasn’t writing.  She gathered my characters and they all made their grievances known.  Did I mention that I was at work at the time?  I was alone which was good, but geez.  Wait till I’m home!

But, needless to say, it broke my block.

Speaking of writer’s block, my muse is funny that way.  She’s pretty much ready to go all the time (except when she’s sleeping or sulking) but occasionally, she gets lost.  She’s sending me ideas and all kinds of good stuff, but when I sit down to write, it’s all gone.  Hit and run.  Hit me with it and fucking disappear.  Ooh, I wish I could strangle her when she does that.

The Greek word for muse is mousai (I know this because that unfinished Nano thing from 2009 was a story about a muse, and I needed something interesting to call her besides “muse.”  This has been your useless factoid of the day).  I find that so interesting because it reminds me of mouse.  There’s no way those are connected; the connection is strictly mine (the Greek word for mouse, if you’re interested, is poondiki (and no, that’s not the correct spelling.  It’s phonetic.  I have a Greek co-worker).  But think of this.  Mice are devious little things, aren’t they?  And we’ve got the expression “quiet as a church mouse.”  But sometimes they can scratch walls and make noise and generally be annoying.  They also can hide — especially when one is trying to get rid of them.  (I had a mouse in my office once.  No one at work believed me.  They said I was imagining things.  Please note that I’m not at all scared of mice and do not get hysterical like some people do.  I was very calm and cool when I mentioned it.  A few hours later, after waiting for it to show up again, I spotted it strutting around the kitchen and told my co-workers.  They finally believed me).  Well, doesn’t this kind of describe muses?  Or, my muse?  You bet it does.

We have an interesting relationship, my muse and I.  She can be wonderful, my best friend and my true inspiration.  But she can also be my greatest enemy because she wants to write everything.  If she had her way, I’d be working on at least 3 projects at the same time and that makes me nervous.  I can do it, just not very efficiently.  That’s the problem.  I need to focus on one thing only.  That way, I’m making the most use out of my time.  Because I work and have a husband, I have limited time.  So every minute has to count.

Now, she can be brilliant for plot twists, character flaws, revelations, and mixing things up.  My current work-in-progress hit me a few weeks ago, with everything just there, from the world to the characters to the plot.  To be honest, the plot was actually from my NanoWriMo novel from 2003 that I’ve been meaning to rework.  She hit me with this like a hammer to the head and I spent about 3 days daydreaming, brainstorming, making notes as fast as I could, and figuring out scenes and situations.  The ending eludes me, but that’s not a problem.  By the time I get there, I’ll know what it is.  That’s another thing — she loves to play when I’m rough drafting it.  She believes that the blank screen is there for her benefit.  She frolics around, sprinkling faerie dust and plots.  Then she’s off in a different direction, shaping things to her whim.  And then she overwrites and veers off several times.  After all that, she throws in pointless meandering and a few red herrings and calls it a day.  Meanwhile, I’m sitting here with a mega-manuscript in the bag and a migraine just trying to put the pieces back together.  She pulled that with one book — it weighed in at 399k.  The other big one is currently in 12 pieces and although I love the story, I have no clue how I’m going to make sense of the chaos she inflicted on me (but, to her credit, I did finish the draft, so I guess I can’t complain.  Much).

But you know what?  Most of that craziness brings me joy.  I know it sounds nuts, but she’s a lot of fun, even when she’s shaking things up and creating mayhem.  She’s actually pretty brilliant.  I just wish she’d get more organized.  But hey, no one’s perfect, right?

At the end of the day, I know this: I’m far better with her than without her.  Even if “she” is just a collection of gray matter.  She’s real to me.  Even when she sucks.

website ~ http://www.erinkendall.com
writing blog ~ http://erinkendall.wordpress.com

On Muses, Procrastination, and Writer’s Block

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There’s a lot of contention in the writing world about the existence of both muses and writer’s block. I happen to fall into the camp that believes in both. However, I don’t believe that either of them are mystical outside forces which control a writer.

My Muse is my subconscious. She’s that part of me that finds wonder and magic in everything. My inner child.  I may talk about her as if she’s an outside part of me. I may bitch and moan and gripe that she’s run off ONCE AGAIN with the hot chick down the street. Or that she’s being a recalcitrant bitch who refuses to work with me. But I’m really bitching about myself. About my inability to get out of my own way. Or about my inability to just sit my butt in my chair and just write.

BIC-FOK (Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard) is not one of my strong points. Oh, I can do the whole butt in chair, fingers on keyboard deal all day every day. Surfing the web and finding all sorts of fun goodness is NOT a problem for me. It’s the focusing on the writing without being distracted that gets me every time.

To help with that, I invested in a program called Freedom. It allows me to turn off my internet connection for a set length of time. And the best part? The only way to disable it before the time is up is to restart your entire computer. Paired with Freedom, I have the desktop version of Write or Die. I set it for 500 words in 30 minutes and wing off on my merry writing way. I can usually get those words done in 15 minutes, but I like having the extra time because it tricks my brain into thinking “You wimpy bitch, 500 words in 30 minutes is NOTHING. I will crush those puny words.”

Of course, I occasionally go through periods where I suffer from writer’s block. I’m not talking about a simple “I have no ideas.” These are periods that make me feel like I’ve got thick, dark wads of cotton instead of brains. It’s a matter of not being able to even *think* coherently never mind write.

Many people dismiss writer’s block. They say it’s all in the head. That a “real” writer doesn’t get writer’s block. That it’s just another form of procrastination. To those people I say “Screw you. Screw you right in the ear.” Just because YOU’VE never experienced writer’s block doesn’t mean it’s not real.

And I resent the implication that I’m not a “real” writer simply because I occasionally experience bouts of writer’s block. Is having writer’s block conducive to being a working, published writer? Of course not. Nobody ever said it was. And believe me, I’ve tried every single suggestion I’ve ever come across to get past the writer’s block. Nothing works except for letting it run its course. Will that hamper me as a working writer? Probably, but I’ve found that worrying about things that I can’t control is pointless and only leads to fewer words written.

Just remember that not everybody does things exactly the way everybody else does them. AND THAT’S OKAY! I don’t write the way Chuck Wendig writes who doesn’t write the same way Ilona Andrews writes who doesn’t write the same way Stephen King writes. We’re all walking our own writing paths and striving to tell the best stories we can and that should be all that matters.

I’d also like to remind everybody about the giveaway I’m doing in support of Rob Thurman. Go HERE to enter for free books by a great author!! And, if you already entered but don’t see your comment, WordPress ate a couple of comments that it had marked as spam. Please repost and I’m so sorry. I think I have the problem fixed. Thanks.