Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Calliope (I think), visit yourself upon me

Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long. Leonard Bernstein

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” Peter De Vries

Ah, the Muse. When she is upon me, life is soooo good! I know that the number of muses varies depending upon which ancient writer you read, but nine appears to be the standard most accepted. That allows in Calliope, the muse for epic poetry, who carried a writing tablet. Since fiction was not a form when the old ones formulated the concept of muses, I guess she is the closest to what we fiction writers could claim as our muse.

But she can be darn slow in showing up some days. Have you noticed that?

The two quotes I selected for today’s blog speak to that absence. Remember my writing rules from an earlier blog? Three of the six speak to the same issue. You just gotta do it whether you are inspired or not.

That’s not normally a problem for me. It has always worked to try some of my tools and strategies with the book that isn’t cooperating (move to another scene in the blocked book or have my blocked book characters journal about themselves so I know them better).

But if that doesn’t work pretty quickly—I get impatient and only give it a half hour—I just switch over to another book. Changing genres, characters, and plot lines has always jarred my muse into wakefulness. I always kind of wondered if she just gets bored sometimes and wants to strike out in another direction.

I have so many different books going all the time that if that one book is being recalcitrant, I just open the computer file for another and write away, Or I start a new book. Or I write a future blog entry. That stirs up the jelly beans I call brains so I can get back to my blocking book the next day.

Whatever. The result was that I never had been crippled by what other’s call “writer’s block”. Until this summer.

This time the problem I was stuck on in my novel wouldn’t allow me to move on to another piece, nor could I move forward with that book. I couldn’t shake it with my usual tools and strategies. I obsessed about the book that wouldn’t play with me nicely.

A part of me stepped back dispassionately and marveled at the experience I was having while at the same time I felt this paralysis and abandonment and terror that the ride was over before I had crested the first hill on the roller coaster.

My critique partner talked me down. She helped me break through to the next level, and then it started to flow again.

So what happens next time I block? I’ll still start with the old tools and strategies I have used before. Then I’ll try to move to another book. If it still doesn’t work, right away I will call in my Pens Afire critique or Desert Flowers writing group members to pull me from the bog. Then I will set that bog on fire!

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