In this episode, I discuss “the Muse” (and no, not the band or Jason).
Welcome to Empty Pages, which chronicles my journey from first draft to published manuscript and beyond. I’m your host, Ian MacTire.
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On with the show. On this episode, we’re going to talk about “The Muse”, and no, not the band. Regardless of whether you are a new artist, or you’ve been around for awhile, we’ve all heard about “the muse”. Of course, by “artist” I mean anyone who creates some form of art, such as us writers.
In ancient Greek mythology, the Muses were inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. Ancient artists would often invoke the Muses near the beginning of their work by way of invocation , asking for help or inspiration, and sometimes even inviting the Muse to work directly through them.
These days, we don’t really give invocations or seek out these goddesses. Nowadays, the term “muse” is used to refer to artistic inspiration, or a person or force that is the source of that artistic inspiration. It’s something that has really just been generalized over the centuries, although you might find the occasional person who actually believes that the Muse (or Muses) are an actual source.
So now that we have that out of the way, what does that have to do with writing? Well, a lot of the time, you hear people talk about how they’re not writing because the “muse” has been quiet lately. These are people who are waiting for inspiration to strike them before they sit down and write.
Now, I’m not going to say that waiting for inspiration to strike is good or bad. That’s for you to decide. I will say that if you are just walking around waiting for the muse to come to you with an idea for a story, you’re probably making it far harder on yourself that you need to.
There’s a quote from Stephen King that I like regarding the muse. He said the following:
“Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hard headed guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or spirit world we’re taking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon or seven ’til three. If he does know, I can assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up, chomping on his cigar and making his magic. “
As someone who used to wait around for the muse to show up, and who now parks his arse in a chair at roughly the same time each evening, I can attest to what King is saying. There’s nothing inherently wrong with waiting for inspiration to strike. However, if you’re serious about writing, then you would do best to find a time each day that you are going to sit down and write.
At first, it may not seem like it’s working. There will be times where you will be staring at a blank screen or blank piece of paper. After awhile though, you’ll find yourself sitting down and having no issues coming up with something to write. What you have done is two fold: 1) you’ve trained your brain to shift into writing mode at a specific time, and 2) if you believe in the muse (and I do), you’ve just told it where you’re going to be and at what time.
The muse is busy, and you’re not the only one it needs to visit. Make it easy on the muse, and yourself, by being consistent with when you choose to write. Oh, and here’s a little secret: when you do this, the muse really appreciates your help, and will reward you with some kick ass writing, or some kick ass ideas.
So help a muse out, and help yourself out at the same time!
And with that out of the way, here’s a bit about what I’ve been up to, writing wise. I finished the first draft of a wild west themed horror story. I’m pretty damn proud of what I wrote overall. There was a few rough spots.
One of those was trying to describe a sunset. I’ve seen a lot of sunsets over the years, so you’d think that would be easy. Nope. I even googled pictures of sunsets in an effort to describe it, but the words were not coming. I don’t know why I struggled with it overall. I also don’t know why I didn’t just jot some stuff down and make a note to fix it in the edit. But I spent an evening on just that. I most certainly did not reach my 2500 word goal that day.
The second thing I had an issue with was describing a fight scene. About half way through, I gave up and decided to go do some research. I couldn’t find any video or article that could tell me how to write a fight scene between a group of people, much less a group of people and a monster. I finally screw it and moved on.
I have a process where if I’m having some issue, I go to sleep thinking about that and let my subconscious work on it. Most of the time, that works, and I’m good to go. Sometimes it backfires and it prevents me from going to sleep at all, or it will wake me up in the middle of the night and then I can’t get back to sleep. Fortunately, it not only helped, but I was able to sleep through the night. Unfortunately, I had to work the next day, so I had to wait until evening to put it into effect.
Basically, I figured out that I was giving a blow by blow description. It wasn’t working, because I was bringing the action to a crawl. In a fight, it needs to be short and punchy, not long and drawn out, as I was initially doing. In addition, my monster wasn’t doing much of anything, and thus wasn’t really coming across as a threat. I went back and cleaned up what I had written previously, wrote the broad strokes, and made the monster more participatory. I also fixed the sunset and made it better.
Once finished, I gave it to some beta readers and got their feedback. I was actually surprised at the feedback I got. I can attest that none of them know each other, so it was interesting that their feedback was pretty close. The general gist of the feedback was that it was good, they enjoyed it, it evoked the wild west, they could see the story, and – most surprising to me – the fight was really good and worked. Where it didn’t work for them was the beginning of the story being a bit slow.
So, color me surprised! That said, I’m extremely happy the fight scene worked. I know what I need to fix, and that’s what I’ll be doing next when I begin to edit it. Good thing I enjoy editing! Which, I’ll talk about in another episode.
Stay classy, and keep writing those stories!
This has been another episode of Empty Pages. If you enjoyed what you heard and want more of it, you can follow me at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts from. Please leave me a review, as that really helps me out, and if you do, you might find your review featured in a future episode. You can find me at ianmactire.com, as well as on Twitter and Instagram as @ianmactire. Until next time, I’m Ian and this is Empty Pages. Stay classy and write those stories!
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