Monday, April 22, 2013

The Muse is Not My Mascot


I saw this on Pinterest the other day. Putting aside that the nerves in my teeth tingle at the lack of apostrophes, it made me stop and think for a few minutes.

I read this on the internet all the time. That inspiration and passion for writing a story is more important than anything else.

Let's define "Inspired," shall we?   
       Verb : aroused, animated, or imbued with the spirit to do something, by or as if by supernatural or divine influence

You know what I hate about this? That the need for inspiration as a writer (or as any artist) is really out of our hands. We can only do it so long as the muse is whispering in our ear. When the muse stops, so does the ability to create anything worthwhile. 


I will also add, although this isn't in the definition, that there seems to be an understood element of ease in being inspired. Like the muse is speaking the story and all you have to do is keep up with it.

There are certainly writers who can sit down with a story burning their brains and pound it out in a few weeks. It seems like some people are only hindered by how fast their fingers can fly on the keyboard. I hear this, anyway.

Which makes me wonder what is wrong with me. Writing sometimes feels less like inspiration than constipation. Yes, I just said that. Because isn't that true? It's not that there isn't a story inside me. I have a dozen of them. I can sit at the keyboard and know EXACTLY where the story is going, what the character is going to do. And yet... I just can't get it out. It's like I have some writing dysplasia.

And sometimes I have NO IDEA where a story is going. I'll finish one chapter and think, "Now how the heck am I going to write myself out of that corner?"

If I ever finish this novel, it's not going to have anything to do with inspiration. It's going to be plain, hard, hair-pulling, scream-inducing effort that gets me there.

Which is why, when I found this quote almost immediately after, I had to chuckle.


I wonder why artists - writers and song writers and painters, etc - have this requirement or inspiration thrust upon them. An accountant doesn't have to be "inspired" to fill out tax forms that maximize a person's return. A lawyer doesn't have to be "inspired" to come up with a legal strategy that either convicts or exonerates a defendant. A construction crew doesn't have to be "inspired" to fill a pot hole or build a house. A gardener does not have to be "inspired" to layout a beautiful landscape. An ad agency does not have to be "inspired" to come up with a great marketing ploy. A designer doesn't have to be "inspired" to decorate a room. What they do need is a lot of knowledge and an ability to mold that knowledge into the situation at hand. And work.

Just once, I'd like someone to say hard work, just a lot of hard work, is all it takes.

And for the sake of the keyboard, I'll leave the glitter for the tooth fairy.

16 comments:

  1. I'm with you. I'm also with those who find first drafts agonizing. Have you read ART AND FEAR? It's brilliant.

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  2. I haven't, but now I'll have to check it out!

    I abhor first drafts. I am totally in love with revising. I think that makes me unusual, but it's so much easier to wrestle words already on the page than words in my head. My greatest obstacle is to just say, "I don't care how bad it is, I need to just get the words on the page and fix them later." I have this internal editor writing and deleting constantly in my head that paralyzes me from writing. Still working on that!

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  3. Hard work in writing, I think, involves just writing writing writing writing writing, no matter if inspiration is there or not, and especially no matter if you think your writing is good or not.

    Somebody sitting around waiting for inspiration to hit before they write will turn to dust before they start writing.

    Sometimes I think I have the heart and guts to pull this off. Other times not.

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    1. Paul - I think most of us think that way. The trick, I hope, is to keep writing no matter whether we think we can pull it off or not.

      I did like it better, though, when I was first writing and had no idea what the publishing industry was like or cared whether it was good or not. Ignorance made a horrid first novel, but it sure was much easier to write. :)

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  4. I resemble the second quote much more than the first. Writing is the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm writing down this quote. Great post.

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    1. Me, too, Robin! Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Being the queen of analogies, I have to say I might have to pass you the crown, with the writing is more like constipation quote. That's awesome, because it is so true. I saw your second quote on Pinterest and to me that really just sums everything up. Writing is one of the hardest things I've done. Correction: Trying to write well is one of the hardest things I've done.

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    1. Ha ha!! You ARE the queen of analogies! Not sure I want constipation to be the reason you give it up! :)

      I never thought of writing as hard until I tried to do it (well). Really, I almost think hard physical labor would be at least satisfying. At school once, a faculty member said, "Everyone likes to talk about how hard writing is. That's just to make everyone feel sorry for us when really writing is FUN. We are so lucky to get to do this while all those other slobs are out there laboring over something they hate doing."

      I don't disagree that we are lucky (sort of), but it's hard for me. And not always fun. And sometimes I'd rather do something I can control - like operating machinery or filing paperwork - than this untouchable, unattainable goal of writing the perfect novel.

      And yet... still I try. Because I can't NOT. Sigh.

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  6. I think those who believe they must be inspired on a daily basis are the first to burn out because no idea gets anywhere unless you're willing to put in the hard work.

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    1. I think you're right, Kathryn. And how awful to be at the mercy of inspiration - which can be so fickle! At least with hard work, I know that's still there every day.

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  7. Yes, yes, YES. This! I have wondered what is wrong with me that I can't get my novel finished - is it lack of inspiration? No. It's because it's HARD work and lately, I've felt exactly like you - constipated. LOL. It's been like pulling teeth. I hate everything I write. It sounds stilted and boring and bad. But I've never believed in a writing muse. Never. I think Pablo Piccasso had a quote that went something like, "Inspiration has to find you working." That is more appropriate, I think, than the first quote you have.

    Writing is hard, and there are times when I wonder why in the world I do it.

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    1. I wish more people would say out loud, "WRITING IS SOMETIMES HARD!!" Then maybe people would stop saying, "Oh, I have so many story ideas inside me. Maybe someday I'll have the luxury of having time to write them, too."

      As if it's just as simple as having an idea.

      I love that quote from Picasso. I mean, it's nice to have inspiration hit every now and then, even if it's in the shower or carpool line, but you sure can't rely on it!

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  8. LOL! Throw some glitter my way!!! Love your title.

    Sounds as though we've encountered some of the same people recently - the ones who like to begin their sentences with "Oh, it must be nice to..." Some days it is. And some days it isn't. And most days, it's none of their business!!

    And if we could arrange a way to co-mingle my first draft love with your love of (shudder) revisions, we'd be golden! Yet another writing conundrum.

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    1. Yes!! Wouldn't it be great if we could trade and borrow skills and loves as needed? I'd just borrow your first drafting love for a few weeks, and you in turn can use my revising love while I'm not using it. :)

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  9. I totally get you. There are probably so many people out there waiting to feel inspired and time just slips through their hands. At times writing does feel like constipation.

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  10. Ohhhh what a relief to have read this, right here at this point in time, when writing is like pulling my own teeth out!!!!!

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