The Muse

So, about a year ago my muse and I had a falling out.  Harsh words were spoken, bags were hurriedly packed and then poof, she* was gone.  Oh, I figured she would return just as quick, ready to pick right back up.  I was, however, completely and utterly wrong.  The longer we were apart, the less frequently I thought of her, until, eventually I began to doubt that she had existed at all.  Discouraged, I cast the remnants that she had left behind into a drawer, ostensibly to never see the light of day again.

So, it was with some amazement that forces perhaps both natural and un-natural worked in harmony to align the planets and grant me another chance.  Out of the blue, I get a text from her, says she’s been bored without a writer to kick around.  That may sound inauspicious to you, but to me it sounded like just what I needed to hear.  So, while the separation was a bit abrupt, the return will be handled with more care.  Unpack one bag, see how it goes.

*in the classical sense, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne – I’m not trying to be sexist here

Fighting your fears to build good ideas

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

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This past week and next we’re all writing about some aspect of ideas on this blog, and I’m going to take my shot at three fears that I face around ideas.

My ideas aren’t very original!

This might be the most common fear based on discussions I have with other writers. I have an idea, but… well, it doesn’t really get me excited. It’s an idea, sure, but it isn’t anything that exciting. I’m pretty sure others have thought of this before me, and in all likelihood they were smarter and better writers than me so could do more with it.

What I’ve learned is that I’m often way too critical of my initial ideas, but even when they really aren’t that great they frequently lead to something that is. So I will dutifully write them down in my notebook, sometimes with a shrug, and come back to them later. My best screenplay came from a random, silly idea that I wrote down and slowly grew and nurtured.  Take all the ideas you get as gifts – there may be more to them after you unwrap them.

People will laugh at my ideas!

Orangutan in Aalborg Zoo, Denmark

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This happens to me. A lot.  But I come up with silly ideas and have a tendency (perhaps quite under-restrained) to share them quite broadly. In most cases I have a thick skin about it, but sometimes I care about an idea so much, I get hesitant to share it for fear of the reaction it might create. What if my mental Emperor has no clothes?  So the ideas I end up sharing the least are the ones I like the most. Pretty brilliant, eh?

I’m also not unique in this wonderful problem. Nearly every I’ve ever spoken with at length tells me, at some point, of this idea they have they really like but don’t know what to do with, that they’re not ready to share, and they will tell me about at some point when they have polished it up a bit. I rarely ever get that polished version.  Maybe it is only in the Misery Loves Company category, but it helps me to know that others struggle with this, too.

Getting around this fear requires some trust. What helped me is connecting with some fellow writers who will be supportive of what I’m trying to do without shining me on.  If my brilliant idea sucks, I still want to hear that, but I also need ideas how to make it better, stronger, faster.  I have the technology, so how can I rebuild it?  Knowing that others are there to help makes a huge difference.

My ideas will stop coming!

I used to do short-form comedic improv, and I’d often wonder where my ideas were coming from. I had no time to “think” about what I would say; I’d just react.  Often nothing of note would come from my mouth, but other times something downright brilliant would emerge and I’d be as stunned as everybody else. Of all the ancient Gods and spirits, I probably understand best why people believed in the Muses. How can these ideas just appear in our heads?  From whence do they come? And… oh God… what if they stop?!?

To combat this one… I’ve got nothing. I don’t believe any supernatural woo-woo is giving me ideas, but neither do I know any scientific process. What if there is one super-tired neuron in my brain that mutated so badly it puts out weird signals that the rest of the brain can barely understand?  What if that neuron has only two minutes left before it burns out?  Other than meaning I better wrap up this post quickly, there is nothing I can do about it.  I face my bouts of writer’s block or stuckness when they came, but just keep plowing along and hoping that neuron is eating right and getting plenty of rest.

Keep at it

In the end, coming up with good ideas is a process.  Sometimes you have to build them from scraps, sometimes you need others’ help, and sometimes you just plow through. You just have to keep at it, and don’t let your fears get in your way.

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That Which Does Not Kill Us May Make Us Stronger, But It Can Also Crush The Writer’s Muse

Today, I get a letter in my mailbox at work that will tell me whether or not I have a job here next year. Unfortunately, many are in this situation with the economy the way it is. That kind of pressure weighs heavily on a person and it got me to thinking about how such instances affect writing. The truth of the matter is that sometimes when life gets tough, I tend to emotionally shut down, which leaves little energy for writing. When I first got into reading poetry I read about the lives of some of the poets and it seemed that when their lives were in the proverbial crapper, they turned to writing for solace or to release emotions. Look at Charles Bukowski’s Barfly and you will see what I mean. That doesn’t seem to happen for this writer. The last thing I want to do when I am feeling angst is pick up a pen or sit in front of a computer (usually my expressions are more physical in nature…elbows to the medulla oblongata and such). So I guess I am writing this blog in defiance at the moment, a mere twenty minutes before I will obtain the letter that holds the answer to my future. Do other writers out there struggle to find inspiration or their creative voice during times of trouble? Or are those the times when they produce their best, their most honest work?

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