a. A guiding spirit.
b. A source of inspiration.
One of the first things I thought of when I saw a class offering to help writer’s connect with their “Muse” faster…or easier was this: “What muse?” Or worse: “What if I don’t have a muse. Does that mean I’m not a good writer?!” Panic set in. I needed to find my muse. As a beginning writer, I would have taken any muse. Your muse…the neighbor’s muse…even my cat’s muse! Someone had to have a muse I could borrow. Because, really? I didn’t have a muse…or so I thought.
As I wrote my stories, I would get caught up in the story. To me, writing was like putting down on paper the movie I would see in my head. It was awesome. One day, during a scene I had plotted out in detail (I mean, every detail…who stood where, which hand was lifted…well, you get my meaning), something really wild happened. The hero did something totally unplanned. I was typing away and… BAM! He did something totally unexpected. I was so surprised, that I actually lifted my hands from the keyboard, sat back and spoke out loud to nobody. “Wow, what did you do that for?” This was quickly followed by: “Wow…that really works. I love it!”
Towards the end of the story, a secondary character started trying to take over scenes. He really did try to make the story about him. It got to be very frustrating. So, one day, I stopped typing and spoke out loud (Really? Don’t all writers do this at one point or another?). I said “Hey! Stop that! This story isn’t about you.”
That’s when it happened. This secondary character stepped out of my story and crossed his arms and looked right at me (in my head, of course…I’m not THAT…well…never mind.). He heaved a deep breath and said “Fine. I’ll step back, for now. But, the next story will be mine. I need my own story.”
Then it began…he just had to give me his opinion on nearly everything I wrote. When I decided to genre hop to historical, he miraculously changed his clothes to reflect the period I wrote in and continued with his opinions. His ideas…they were good. Sometimes, he’d snicker at me. Other times, he’d give me his wicked sexy grin and nod, confirming I was on the right track.
I’d found my muse. His name is a secret. But, for this blog, let’s call him Mr. N, and he’s a very alpha male, which makes his presence extra nice to have around. He helped me figure out problem areas in my stories. He’d even talk to my other characters and give me insight on their motives.
Then…a year ago he got mad at me. I think it’s because I had some major personal events that I allowed to keep me from writing. He left in a huff. He’s waiting for me to grovel and beg him to return. I resisted for six months. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t written anything new in six months!
I did what I’d heard writers should do. I put my hands on the keyboard and JUST KEPT WRITING…anything. One day, out of the blue, Mr. N returned. I missed my muse. But his absence taught me determination. Irritating man.
As I’ve stated in my website and bio’s, I’ve participated in the National Novel Writing Month for five years now. Any chance I get, I recommend this program to others. Why? Because, I believe it challenges the writer to do what is called “free writing”. The official challenge of this program is to write a novel in a month. 55,000. They are very supportive in their forums as well as local support groups. They encourage the participants to just write or type without fear of criticism, without editing, without worrying about someone reading their story. I love it.
When I did my first year, I had to fight the urge to stop and edit as I went along. I also found that when I had a momentary mind dump on a word, I’d sit there staring at my computer screen, wasting valuable minutes trying to come up with the word that I was looking for to fit my current sentence. It was frustrating, to say the least. Each minute I sat staring was less words I was typing. Or worse, I’d get up and move away from the computer to get a book to find the word I wanted…or “gasp”, close my manuscript to get on the internet to do a thesaurus search. Well, by then I’m sure you can guess…the writing was over. That internet is addictive!
How could I break this vicious cycle? Then it hit me: I used brackets around an idea…or if I couldn’t think of it, I’d use brackets around something as simple as [insert idea here] or, when desperate [YUCK]. This technique allowed me to continue typing and not break my rhythm in the story. When I completed my manuscript, I simply did a search for the brackets and revised accordingly.
My best friend and fellow writer, now an author, used a triple x: XXX to mark her momentary stops. Recently, a fellow Georgia Romance Writer noted on her face book page that she uses a key word that she made up and would never, ever use in her stories. Then, when done with her manuscript, she’d do a search for that word.
I am an advocate on using this method. It’s a time saver, stress reliever and, most important of all, it allows me to continue to write. I know I’m not the first to use this method…nor do I own this idea. I’m sure other writers have thought of it and used it often. Some may even be embarrassed to say what word and/or symbol they use.
I dare you to share. If you use this method, what is your “marker”?
One of the things I usually say to folks when asked to describe myself, is that I love puzzles. Not just your typical jigsaw puzzle. Although, my mother loved putting those together and I cherished the times I spent with her working on those 3000 piece killers. As life moved on, I went from jigsaw puzzles to brain teasers, word games to literature. Not many people think literature can present puzzles. But, they do. Why did the hero do this or go there? My first love was mysteries. Sherlock Holmes kicked my butt. I remember a game I received for Christmas one year. This was the gist of it: The player received a binder. In the binder was a copy of the London newspaper dated appropriately, interview dialogues, a map of London (also dated appropriately) and a book with the beginning of a mystery. The idea was to solve the mystery in the lowest amount of “moves” as possible. Each time you read an article, reviewed the map, or read an interview, it counted as a move. Over and over I would try each mystery and try to “beat” the score. I didn’t do very well, but I never gave up. I was hooked on trying to figure out the puzzle of the mystery! I did the same with a book on Jack the Ripper. Really, with today’s technology and advances on psychological studies, that would be a mystery easily solved, or would it?
One of my Life puzzles: When I went back to college, and reviewed the requirements for an English degree, I discovered I needed four years of a foreign language. Four years. I did Spanish for two and a half years and began cringing when I realized I had another year and a half to go. I was not going to be able to speak fluent Spanish in this lifetime, nor learn it well enough to take the final level required. That I knew without a doubt. No way, Jose. This presented me with a puzzle. How do I meet the requirements for the degree without following the traditional path of sticking to one foreign language? I researched and, lo and behold, I found out the requirement was four years of a foreign language, with the last two years being upper level courses. But! Those upper level courses did not have to be in the same language. Sweet! I went to my favorite English professor and asked her assistance. During the next year and a half, I took Old English (which required translating Beowulf), Latin (translating Aeneid), and Sanskrit (no translating, that was hard enough on its own!).
Another Life puzzle: Being a single parent also presented its own challenges. How do I stay involved with my kids as I work full time and go to school full time? Easy peasy. I tortured my kids with my homework! My son lucked out with Beowulf. Because, really…what boy doesn’t like a story of a hero coming to save the day of a wounded town and frightened king? He also got drawn into Latin stories. Myths, Gods, treachery…he soaked them up. This led to video games and books of fantasy for him. And yes, mom had to reciprocate and learn the video games. Those wicked things can be addictive. Live interactive books. Genius!
Some folks call these challenges. I’ve chosen to call them puzzles. Why? Because eventually, puzzles can be solved, I believe. If one takes the time to look at the entire picture and then plunge in. That’s the scary part: plunging in. But, it’s also the most thrilling.
Have you had a life puzzle of your own that you figured out a unique way to solve? I’d love to hear about it!