Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lisa says, "Muse, Shmuse".

I don’t believe in a muse.

Writing is work. Fun work, challenging work, exhilarating work, excruciating work. Our brains are constantly connecting neurons, rejecting or accepting plot lines, motivations, character traits, settings. And when we’re stuck, it is easy to say our muse has deserted us.

I reject that theory. We’re subconsciously working through a glitch in the manuscript. A hiccup in the flow of words. A working writer doesn’t shrug and think the muse is on vacation. A working writer writes around the blockage. We research, we write scenes in other points of view, we write backstory, we write pages and pages of extraneous description that will never see the light of day, we stare out the window (laptop on and in our lap) at the leaves letting our minds wander, we make color-coded charts and note cards, we revise and revise and revise.

Equally important, when the work is really pouring out of us, I refuse to embrace the concept of some nameless mythological entity bestowing their generosity upon us. We worked hard to get to the point where the story vomits out in giant technicolor bursts and the revisions will be minimal because every aspect that we normally labor over seems to be miraculously right. Giving the credit to someone else (unless it is a critique group for un-sticking us) rubs me the wrong way.

I own my work habits, both good and bad. And no stinking ‘muse’ is gonna take them away.



Gary Corby said...

Wow Lisa, I wouldn't want to be the Muse that got in your way. :-)

I can totally relate to the laptop, the lap, and the window.

Anonymous said...


This reminds me of the old chestnut "Plumbers don't get plumber's block." But I'm afraid that pales in comparison to your comment of when the story "vomits out in giant technicolor bursts." Wow does that hit the nail on the head sometimes!

Thanks for a great post!

camille@minichino.com said...

I've always liked the plumber analolgy!

Lisa, I hope you don't mind my coming in here with a WHOOP for Sophie! A best first Edgar Nom -- you must all be as happy as I am for this extraordinary lady!

Lisa Hughey said...

Camille--of course :) Sophie, LGC and I have been writing and critiquing together for...ten(ish)years. I am thrilled for her!! :)

Pam--thanks for visiting :)

Gary--umm, I was in a bit of a militant mood when I wrote this post. I'm a really nice person...I swear :)

L.G.C. Smith said...

Hooray for Sophie's Edgar nomination! May this be the first of many!

Lisa truly is the nicest person imaginable. I had some resistance to this topic, too. It rubs me the wrong way to think of having a muse. Not a very 21st century idea I guess. But I find inspiration in many places, so I went with that.

It occurred to me to try to come up with a more appealing coterie of Muses for contemporary times. First off, there has to be a mix of genders. Maybe each Muse comes in male, female, and possibly other permutations. Lots of different ethnic looks. A range of voices (one of which must be stolen from Alan Rickman). But this was all too much distracting when I want to be revising Warlord.

Martha Flynn said...

Tell you want, I'll hold Muse down. You beat her up, k?

Sophie Littlefield said...

I'll second that - Lisa really IS astonishingly nice! But there is nothing in the world more fun than provoking her! She gets all frowny and says "I'm going to say something bitchy." This happens incredibly rarely and everyone falls silent and expectant and excited because she's so much fun when she is on a rant. Try it some time, you'll see...

and I *love* "Plumbers don't get plumber's block."