Balance and Listening for the Muse

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 | The Writing Life | 4 Comments


Moon Over the Ridge


I know that a lot of you out there are writers, too, so you know what I’m talking about when I say that balance is an elusive thing. As much as I adore my work, listening for new heroes and heroines, writing the stories I’m given, and making them exciting and truthful for my readers takes a lot of focus. Between the joy of writing and the day job, often little time is left for silence, and even though silence is where the stories come from in the first place.

Of course, I’ve been known to get a visit from the Muse even at the day job. I’ve learned to keep a notebook in my purse, with pen attached, just in case a bit of story comes to me, or a character reveals a plot point that, until that moment, had been a mystery to me.

Sometimes the Muse will show up when I’m in the shower, or washing dishes. I try to keep a pad and pen near the sink and the bathtub, though obviously this makes for problems of its own…waterlogged notepads and running ink. But still, if I make the effort to get the new idea down, the Muse will usually repeat herself later, even if I drop the newly minted idea in the tub.

Often, I’ll get an idea while driving to work. I have a forty-five minute commute, which as I drive through the beauty of the NC mountains, is soothing and relaxing. Being soothed can lead to an open mind, which can lead to completely new story ideas. Always a blessing.

Of course, no matter how many new and shiny ideas show up for the future, I have to finish the novel I am working on now. So there is another point of balance: Keeping the new ideas recorded and almost ready to go while finishing and polishing up the ones that I have already committed to. This point of balance is no burden, but I do try my best to keep the lines of communication open with the Muse of New Ideas, even as I work with the Muse of Fleshed Out Novels. These Muses are really one and the same, so she is gentle with me. Please keep those stories coming…

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First Drafts: Write or Flight?

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 | The Writing Life | 10 Comments

Am I alone in this? Every time I begin the first draft of a novel, two conflicting realities converge.

The need to write, and the need to run away.

I have taken to calling this the Write or Flight phenomenon…the thing that makes me get up from my computer five times on the same page, that makes me seek out yet one more coke or draws me to the internet for ‘research” that then takes me away from the book for the rest of the day.

No doubt, when I do this, it is a lack of discipline. But this phenomenon is more than that. It is a real and urgent need to run from the thing I am creating.

Of course, I always conquer the need to run. We all do. In the end, the book is the boss, and the book has to get written. And the only way for that to happen is to stay in the chair long enough for my characters and I to write the book, or at least today’s chapter. But it can be a fight, some days more than others.

Do you have this Write or Flight experience? If you do, please share in the comments section. I’d love to hear your take.

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Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | The Writing Life | 2 Comments

In life and in art,times of change can be the most important moments. When we move from one act of the novel to the next, from one book to the next, from one chapter of our lives to the next, we find ourselves balancing as on the edge of a knife, careful not to look down in case we lose our nerve, hoping to find the right way to step easily and cleanly from one world to another. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes the move is smooth, almost effortless. Other times, we fall and have to pick ourselves up, and start all over again.

Our characters help with these moments of transition. As we move from act one of a novel into act two, our characters can keep the story alive for us as we continue to build the mountain that is our plot, as we follow it up the trail into the unknown. And when we look back over it, and find that the transition was not as smooth and as effortless on the page as we had hoped, our characters take our hands and lead us back to the true path, the reason we began the novel in the first place: love of their story. The love of telling a story well. A story is not told well with only one draft. We have to hone it, over and over again, until as much truth as possible comes out of it. Transition after transition, we finally find the balance we seek, and have a novel that we can be proud of.

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The Breathings of Our Hearts

Friday, April 20th, 2012 | Quote of the Week, The Writing Life | 1 Comment

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.  ~William Wordsworth

This is one of my favorite quotes on writing, from one of my favorite sources. In the midst of our work, in the midst of trying so hard to get it right, there are times when we forget this. We want our books to be the best they can. We want to give those books the life blood of our hearts, the cleanest plot structures, well-faceted characters, all the while remembering to tell the truth. Our truth, which we hope will be a truth that also belongs to someone else. That is why we do this work after all. To tell our truths to others, and to have them hear us. The closer we listen to the breathings of our hearts, the closer to those truths we come.

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Following the Stream of Thought

Friday, December 23rd, 2011 | The Writing Life | 3 Comments

Where do the streams of our work lead us? Where do they come from, and where are they going?

These are truly random questions, drawn from the myriad of random thoughts that are flowing through my mind today. They are questions without answers, as all the best questions are.

I do not know where my work comes from, or where it is taking me. That is part of the joy of the journey: not knowing. Always following the stream of consciousness that leads to the next story, to the next character, to the next world that has yet to be born.

I love following that stream. I have been doing it all my life, during all the years when I wrote only for myself and my Muse. Now that I write novels for others to read, I  do it still. There is music in the stream that leads me onward. I can’t see where the stream will end, if it ever will. I follow it through dark forests, through deserts where the stream dries to a trickle.  I follow the stream of my thoughts, the stream that runs through my life, knowing that I will find the next character along its banks. Another world to enter, another life, another story to tell.

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