Sunday, February 28, 2010

Communicating with your Muse

My muse isn't always what I'd call a good communicator.

She sits me down in front of the computer and speaks in whispers, often talking too fast for me to keep up as I furiously type the story she's weaving. Or she waits until I'm in the shower to throw an idea at me, when I've got shampoo in my eyes and am completely unable to write down her insights. Sometimes, as I sit there staring blankly at the page, asking "Okay, you lead me down this bizarre what?" I can feel her simply staring back at my placidly for a moment before she tells me just to keep at it and that she'll meet me around the next corner.

Sometimes, she takes me in a direction I don't want to go. "What are we doing here? This doesn't make sense! My characters wouldn't do that. Would they?" In those moments, one of two things happens:

  • I toss out what I wrote, and I realize that I just needed to get that scene out of my brain and onto the page to clear space for a better path, OR

  • She's taken me down an unexpected path that bears wonderful fruit once I make my way around that corner.

In both cases, I can see her standing there, smiling calmly at me, reassuring me that nothing is wasted and the whole process is perfect. Somehow, she's never impatient with my distrust of her seemingly wild schemes, nor my fear that she's leading me to a void from which I'll never find my way back.

Because let's face it: one of our greatest fears as writers is that we've written our last word, that we have nothing left to say, and that we'll be staring at the blank page for the rest of our lives. That we've spent all our creative capital, and our muse has abandoned us for a more worthy channel.

But while she might get very quiet sometimes, I know my muse is always there, because she's me. The part of me that's curious about life, about people, about the world around me--that part is taking in information, processing it, and turning it into interesting and creative ideas. There truly is nothing new under the sun, just new twists on the same themes. But you have to get out there and experience life if you expect to come up with those twists.

So if you're finding yourself at odds with your muse, don't blame him or her for being a poor communicator. Set your expectations more realistically, learn to listen to the way she likes to talk, get out there and be a student of life, and most importantly, try to embrace the uncertainty and fear that comes up around those times when you can't see where she's taking you or hear her voice at all. We put our protagonists in hopeless predicaments all the time, so if nothing else, you can use it as an opportunity to walk in your character's shoes for a little while. Or at the very least, we can use it as an opportunity to get away from the computer and interact with the people outside of our heads for a change.

Oh, and one more thing: when you hear her laughing, she's laughing with you, not at you. Really.

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