Taming Your Muse
See the picture above? That's what I call my muse. Silly I know, but I like to have something physical to hold onto and play around with while I'm waiting for inspiration to strike. I've talked about writer's block (here) and the struggle with that. I've also talked about when inspiration strikes at the worst times (here) but now I'd like to talk about how you tame your muse.
Pretty much every writer I've known has either had something they refer to as their muse. They may also call it their "inspiration" for the story they have written. Sometimes, like in the case of the TV show, CASTLE, it's a person. Sometimes, like in my case, it's an object that's whole purpose in life is to both annoy me and make me giggle like a three year old. Whatever you think of as your muse. You have to learn how to take the inspiration from its starting point to where it will end up in your writing.
I'm a planner (read about it here) and I'm also someone who easily gets distracted (read here). I struggle with my writing at times, but I also set myself goals to keep me orientated. Like writing two books at once (here), or writing a whole series (here). I find that I work best when I know exactly what I want from myself, but also when my elusive muse decides to let me in on how the story *should* go.
Sometimes I spend ages staring at it and cursing at it. I spend time making it vibrate across my desk and chapter plans. I beg it, I plead with it. I just want to write a few sentences, I say, can I just not get a helping hand up to the start? Sometimes it plays ball, other times it just screws with me for shits and giggles. Most of the time I don't know when it's doing either to be quite honest.
Being a writer and writing stories, be they novels, novellas or even a short article, you need to find that balance between relying on that inanimate object or person or whatever to write the piece for you, and finding the words from inside yourself. Once you strike that balance (and you will, eventually) you'll soon see that it's just something you keep around for sentimental reasons and not because you need it. Or at least that's what I tell myself when I'm going through a good patch writing wise.
"NanoBug", that's what my muse is called. It has no other function but to help me to think OUTSIDE the box. I need to write (hell, we all need to write) original works. It's not good taking something someone else has done previously and trying to make it similar but different enough that you won't be sued for plagiarism. You want an original idea. You want something that's within your comfort zone, something that you will enjoy writing and think others will enjoy reading. However, it's far too easy to get stuck in that little box of comfort and just churn out book after book without breaking a sweat. You need to make yourself work for the prize.
That's why you need to tame your muse. If, like me, you prefer to stick to one genre that you enjoy yourself then you need to make a compromise. You can write teen fiction, you can write books for middle aged women, whatever you fancy. It's the genre where you need to sometimes jump outside your box with your eyes closed and pray you land on something soft. So, say you are me. Which is good, coz I'm rather awesome ;) You write teen fiction and you mostly write for the crime genre. Yet, you know that you can't just sit there forever. You have to embrace new things. Art does not stand still and writing is an art form all on its own.
So, you step out and you think, I'll write a teen fiction book with the focus on romance, or one for pre-teens, or one with a different kind of crime story. Throw in a little supernatural, throw in some thing you've wanted to explore but have never gotten the chance. The idea is to think outside the box and sometimes that means dipping your toe into the pool and being unsure if you'll sink or swim. Every writer will go through this at some point and you never know, it might end up being something you thoroughly enjoy and plan to do again. It might even become your new main genre.
Whatever the outcome, we live in an age when a wealth of information is at our fingertips. The internet and while I don't advise using it as your ONLY source of research, it can come in handy for those little pieces that makes your work even more real to the reader.
So, learn to tame your muse. Bring it under your control and step outside of the box on occasion. If it all goes horribly wrong then at least you've learnt that that particular genre is not for you. Not everything you write has to make it to the final stages of publication. Explore the world a little, learn new things and enjoy making your readers enjoy them too. Most of all, have fun. If it becomes something you dread doing, then you're doing it wrong!
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