Posts Tagged ‘muse’

This month’s Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour topic was “Blocks.” My arm was still sore for typing when my day came around, but I had something I wanted to say. So I’m going to go ahead and post my contribution late:

Over the years I think I’ve run into just about every kind of block there is, from the “no time even to breathe” block to the “kids come first” block to the “fear of success” block to the “dammit I’d rather play video games” block. I’ve also had my share of real ones: the ones where your inner muse is trying to tell you there’s something seriously wrong with the story, or something in your life that needs to be addressed first; the mysterious kind that seem to come out of nowhere and settle down over one’s brain and fingers like a shroud; and (toughest of all) the self-inflicted kind.

My most recent block, which is only just fading into the past, was the self-inflicted kind.

I was reading all this “treat your writing like a business” stuff, and “write it and send it out,” and “steady output, butt in chair, plumbers don’t get writer’s block,” and a whole lot of related stuff that works really well for a lot of people. They turn out lots of stories and novels and everything, and get paid for it. Productive and happy, what’s not to like?

And if it didn’t seem to work for me — if I’m the kind of person who wakes up on an unexpectedly sunny morning and says, “Let’s go hiking today. I can write tomorrow when it’s raining,” or has days when the brain just wants to mull things over — well, that just meant I needed to learn more discipline, right?

Wrong, apparently. My productivity dried up. The more discipline I applied, the worse it got. I hated even the thought of sitting down at my desk.

It got to where I even hated to read, because that just reminded me I wasn’t writing.

Last year, as bad as it was on many fronts, did break the block. I was away from my desk and my computer and caught up in family interaction, and writing once again became my solace and necessary friend. I wanted to write again. Circumstances meant I could only write small bits at first, but that was what I needed. Then small bits added to stories I never quite finished. Most recently, a lot of small bits added to a fantasy novella added up to a complete draft submitted to Torrid.

So things are looking up.

Most interestingly, today I was poking through files from two and three years ago, finding files where I had dumped ideas and partial stories while I banged my head against the projects I was “supposed” to be working on. If I had finished even half of them when the idea hit me and was fresh and ready to go, I’d have close to 40 stories.

No wonder my muse quit talking to me. Why should she waste her breath when I wasn’t listening?

So, yeah. Self-inflicted. Hopefully I can avoid making that mistake again!

Today’s post was inspired by the “blocks” prompt in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out what’s on their nightstand, check out the rest of the tour! Up next: D Jordan Redhawk.

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art class tonight

I am quite pleased with this one.

6 June 2012

I think this might be the cover for Darien’s story.

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we are not amused

My muse, ever cooperative and helpful, has decided she doesn’t want to work on novels for now. She wants to work on short stories. She gave me one good idea based on a conversation I overheard at the coffee shop, and then dug around through some old unfinished ideas that she now knows how to make work.

It’s all great, I said, but what about Joey?

Who? she said, throwing another idea onto the pile.

I told her we have to finish Overamped and get it out to agents before she can go play like this. Now she’s sulking.

I don’t believe she wants to work on short stories. She just doesn’t want to work hard. It’s worse than getting teenagers to mow the lawn…

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When we as writers are working on a story, we tend to focus intensely on only that story. We read it over and over, we post it for crit or send it to a few trusted readers, we dissect every word and phrase to make sure they say exactly what we want them to say. We seldom see it in any other context.

Editors aren’t reading that way. Most of us would like to be able to sit down with one story at a time, read it slowly two or three times, ponder what the writer was trying to say, and offer really insightful critique to make a perfect story. But the reality doesn’t happen that way. The reality is that life, family, work, and our own writing take up most of our time. We let the slush pile up, knowing every day that we should get busy. Finally we set a block of time to tackle it, and we sit down and do it.

That means we’re reading in a bunch. One story after another. Unlike many other editors, I’m not dealing with the really crappy stuff; our slush wrangler has already screened out the stupid, the incompetent, and the hapless. So I’m reading mostly pretty good stories.

One right after the other. In a bunch.

By the time I get done reading through that pile, they all start to sound this same. “Oh, dear God, not another amoral female sellsword who left her home under suspicion and…” For example. Even stories that are quite different in story and character wind up sounding like all the others. Daikaijuzine always gives personalized comments. When I go to write them, it’s extremely difficult to find something to say. Because really there’s nothing wrong with the story. If I had read it by itself in a crit group, I probably would have said it was excellent.

But one right after the other, in a bunch? It’s just like all the rest.

This, I think, is what most editors mean when they say, “It just didn’t grab me.” There’s just not enough right about it. Not enough special, not enough strong and insightful, not enough deep and moving, not enough wild and crazy, not enough warm and inspiring. I turn it over, go on to the next one, and when I try to write the rejection, I feel bad but have nothing more to say than a wordy version of, “it just didn’t grab me.”

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season of changes

One of the tasks I’ve been trying to get to for a while now (like since back in the New Year’s Resolutions time frame :p) is cleaning my study. I don’t usually work in that room during the coldest part of the winter, preferring the kitchen where it’s warm. This year I never went back, though, and stuff keeps accumulating. I try to reduce the clutter, throw out the junk, put things in their places, even periodically tackling the necessary rearrangement, but mostly I turn my head the other way when I walk past that door.

Today I went in to put something away in the desk drawer.

I looked at the things on the desk. I looked at the things on the bulletin board above the desk. I looked at the books in the bookshelf.

It was like I was looking at a place belonging to a stranger. I remember putting those things up — the photo of Francoise Hardy, the glow stick from the Shakira concert my daughter took me to, the turkey feather I found in the back yard, the certificate from my first NaNoWriMo completion. I remember what they used to mean to me. They were important touchstones. They reminded me who I was, what I had accomplished, where I was going. But standing there looking at them, I felt like I might as well have been looking at a museum exhibit about some writer named Bonnie who happened to look like me.

I suppose that means this troubled summer has been accompanied by internal changes as well, and that it’s time to clear the decks and start fresh. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

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webcomic recommendation

One of my favorite things to read is the thrice-weekly steampunk webcomic Agatha Clay, Girl Genius. Excuse me, Agatha Heterodyne, Girl Genius, now that her true identity has been revealed. Adventure, romance, mad science! And gorgeous artwork from Phil and Kaja Foglio. This is where I started, when somebody sent me a pointer to the Incredible Falling Machine. I’ve been hooked ever since.

In addition to the long-running story featuring Agatha and Gil, they periodically break for episodes of insanity called “Girl Genius Radio Theater,” shorter segments featuring adventures that don’t in the least fit into the main story line. The most recent episode just ended, and you will not find a better introduction: REVENGE OF THE WEASEL QUEEN, Part Three. It includes a very nice summary at the beginning, some gorgeous artwork, and an ending you won’t see coming. *g* I’m still laughing.

I’ll leave out the part where I whine about wishing I could draw like that and be so wildly creative and witty, because it’s only envy. I have my own world view and I’m good at it. I can enjoy somebody else’s creation without thinking that makes mine any less.

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musing on the muse

I’m the guest blogger today at Valerie Comer’s Little Worlds, where I talk about what my muse does for my writing process.

Val’s teaching a class called Me, My Muse and I at Forward Motion. In conjunction with that she asked a number of writers, both published and unpublished to contribute their thoughts. Check it out if you haven’t already — some interesting and useful things to think about.

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