Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The muse limps back

My muse has been on an extended hiatus. For awhile I tried to force it to return, to show up on the page, but just like a rebellious teenaged daughter, the harder I pushed, the more stubborn and insolent it became. Eventually I got fed up and decided to just let it go, told it to do 'whatever the heck it pleased,' and surprisingly, (just like the teenaged daughter,) when it didn't have to fight to prove its independence, it eventually began to show interest in re-establishing our relationship.

Some people would call this 'writer's block'. When on the author speaking circuit, inevitable someone will ask me how I, the author, handle writer's block. Depending on my mood I answer in one of two ways.

1. Writer's block doesn't exist. It's just a myth, an excuse writers use when the writing is hard. Who ever heard of 'teacher's block'? Or 'nurses block'? Obviously there are days when teachers and nurses and every other working person on the planet arrive at work and don't feel inspired, the work is just too hard, but they show up anyway, roll up their sleeves and dig in. Inevitably their reason for doing the work in the first place returns and they find the motivation to keep at it, even deriving great satisfaction from it. It's the same with writers. We need to just show up, force ourselves to write, write anything, and eventually the flow of words/creative ideas will return.


2. I face writer's block every single morning. No matter how well the writing was going when I quit the previous day, it takes awhile to warm up to the task again. As it is with runners who need a kilometre or two to find the 'zone' to start enjoying the run, so it is with writers. The warm-up can take a long time, it can be hard to rediscover that 'zone' again, that place where the words just flow, but it will happen if we just arrive at the page.

Either of these answers can be true, given the writer and the particular day, but my muse's hiatus has been a somewhat different experience. My muse has been, literally, numb since October 31, 2009. We all have different ways of coping with life's toughest situations. Some of us find relief by working harder, some sleep more, others turn to various mind-numbing drugs. My experience has been the involuntary shutting down of my muse.

The muse is limping back. This week I wrote the the cliff-hanger scene of a novel I've been working on for years. I've resisted writing this particular scene, even though the whole book has been leading up to it forever. I thought it was just too hard emotionally. I hold the hands of each of my characters and go through every emotion they go through, living their lives with them, so when I'm struggling in my own life, it's just too hard to add the additional whammy of dealing with the emotions of fictional characters. It's also too hard to post blog entries about things that seem trivial in the big picture given the terribly sad events that those I love are struggling with every minute of every day.

I used to enjoy blog writing, using this forum to try to articulate things I was thinking about, and needing the structure of writing to really understand what it was I was feeling. I'm hoping that the time is now right to start doing that again.

Cartoon credit: