Villa in Tuscany

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Muse - She Must Be Obeyed!

I can still remember it. The ideas for a story were churning through my mind. It was Saturday, a day off from the drudgery of high school. I had this plan to devote the entire evening (even if it meant staying home from the high school basketball game) to brainstorming my latest project. I couldn't wait.

But the moment had to be special. No chores looming in front of me, no homework, no family obligations. It would be me, a pen, a clean, fresh notebook, and my muse.

As I went through my day, ideas kept popping into my head. While I was doing the dishes. During my studying breaks. While I dusted the living room.

And you know what I did?

I ignored them. I pushed them away. Later! I said to myself. We'll have time for this later! Lots and lots of time, uninterrupted by chores and anything else, to brainstorm!

I bet you can guess what happened.

When that treasured moment came, when it was perfect, when I sat down to put pen to paper and write down all those wonderful ideas...

The ideas were gone. Vanished. Poof!

I had shut off my muse the entire day. During those mundane activities, when my brain had nothing better to do then to think of my writing, I shut it off. I wanted that perfect moment.

When that moment came, the muse refused to work with me. I had denied her.

(Well, I've always thought of my muse as a 'he' and he has morphed through the years from Harrison Ford to Johnny Depp (21 Jump Street days) to Armande Assante to Patrick Swayze to...ahhh....Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey.)

I learned a very important lesson that day. Don't deny the muse. Ever. If she/he/it demands that you sit down now and write down an idea, obey. Don't fight it, don't rationalize that you have not a single second to put down the dishes or ignore the fighting kids or duck into the office bathroom. You do have that second.

And when you feel like writing, ignore the housework and the other responsibilities in life if you can. Within reason. Take five minutes. Take two. Here and there. Just don't ignore the need to write. That need is there for a reason. You need to listen to it, for your own sanity and happiness.

If you let that moment pass you'll never know what could have been created. It might have been the idea for your next book...the plot twist that your story was missing...the perfect word to complete a description.

Listen to yourself. Ignore the inner editor. Ignore the inner conscious that says you must sacrifice your writing time for your family or your job or your spouse. You need to take that time - even if it's five minutes - to indulge yourself. If not, the muse will not come knocking nearly as often. If she's ignored too much...she starts to feel abandoned.

But it's your creative spirit that is being abandoned, the spirit that allows you to put those words on the paper.

Be good to yourself. Write!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Rites for Writing

When you sit down at your laptop, Alphasmart, PC, yellow pad, etc., do you start writing immediately or do you have a set of rituals?

I was reading the paper this morning and came across this article.  It Just Feels Rite talks about the rituals people perform in the workplace.  For some, it increases productivity, others, rituals are as necessary to their day as breathing.  

When I worked full time, I had a set of rituals I followed when I got to work.  I spent a few minutes checking some websites and reading the news before I started my workday.  I headed to the coffee machine with my friends and caught up on any gossip.  At 3 p.m. we had a ritual of going up to the cafeteria for a cookie and coffee.  It got me through my day.  I also think it helped me get myself mentally organized for my day.

Now, when I sit down to write, I feel the lack of ritual.  Or the rituals I do perform actually waste more time than they should.  I do not drink from the same cup.  I do not have a set snack that I munch on.  I sit down, read through the blogs, post a bit then hit my writing forums.  If this only took ten minutes, it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But I tend to spend more time than I should.  Ten minutes easily becomes thirty.

So I need to find a small ritual that will put me in the mindset and save bloghopping for another time.    Any ideas?  What do you do and how do you make sure you do not over do it?