Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hunting the Muse

Someone asked me recently what it was that inspired me. I think I shot off some glib answer about writing was not inspiration, but dedication. While that is actually very true, it got me to thinking; what is it that truly inspires us? I write most of the time because I have to...not that I don't love it, mind you; I couldn't do anything else. But real, profound inspiration is hard to come by. When it happens, the choir of angels sing in your ear, the skies open, and the Muse begins the daily beatings. You will not eat, you will not sleep, and there is nothing else in the universe until she is done. I wrote a song about it once: You drive me with desire, You feed my fantasies, You fill my heart with fire, Then drive me to my knees. I loathe and yet I love you, Without you I would die, I am a slave to your sweet whim, And I often ask you why. If you want to hear it, here's a link.

For me personally, I have been deeply inspired only a few times in my lifetime; a short story written in high school sparked a 300,000 word epic fantasy (Starsight Series), a viewing of The Phantom of the Opera filled my head instantly with a two act musical (The Angel of St. Pierre), which I wrote in four days; a dream of Rome possessed me...and I couldn't get it down fast enough (The Centurion & The Queen). The rest of the time? I wish I could tell you that that fire happens every time, but the reality is, it doesn't; writing is all about hunting the muse.

I've found that the best way to light a fire under the Muse's butt, is to take the time to think. However, this is the one act that eludes me more than anything else...even writing. As a writer, I have to think, contemplate, meditate, ruminate, and many other "ates," as well. But it is so hard to find the time...the baby needs watching, work is crazy right now, you've got a looming deadline, your favorite show is on. I'm certain other authors know this tune intimately. So, how do we find the time just to dream? For me, I have to sit propped up in the bed, close my eyes, and meditate. If I'm trying to figure out what comes next in a book, I go for a walk and talk to myself...it's pretty funny to watch me run dialogue between two hearty men (ya har)! I get some pretty strange looks, too.

So, for those of you who seek inspiration, you can't wait for the muse to strike. She is a lazy, drunken sod, as I've said before, and needs a good swift kick in the pants from time to time. Turn off the TV, the radio, the internet and take some time to get to know an old friend...you. She's not as boring as you might think...:)

Now, just to make this fun, I'm giving away a free ecopy of The Centurion & The Queen or The Edge of Honor to the person who has the BEST way to hunt the muse...shotguns, hand grenades, and nets are nor allowed. The judge will be me, so needless to say, bribes are allowed and the contest will be truly unbalanced (like it's creator). Any takers? :)

Minnette Meador
www.minnettemeador.com
http://minnettemeador.blogspot.com
2008 Releases:
A Cup of Comfort for Single Mothers
Starsight, Vol. I & II
The Centurion & The Queen
The Edge of Honor

11 comments:

Maddie James said...

Excellent post, Minnette and I hear you every step of the way. (pun unintended!) You're right, finding the time to "think" is difficult. I don't know that I have any techniques but I do know that I value my alone time. Walking is good, too. I do that. Yesterday my critique partner and I took lunch together and a walk and bam! I think I figured out a plot element just by walking and talking with her. Sleep...that's another one. Just sleep and upon waking, often something comes to me.

Well, I didn't intend to rattle on so but your muse is nudging my muse and well...

maddie

Kimberly Garland said...

It does seem hard for many of us to get over the traditional idea that we always have to be "doing" something (like typing) in order to be writing. But then, when a great idea hits me during a stroll on a brisk fall day, I'm so grateful to be a writer. Who else can say that daydreaming is a necessary part of their job? :)
Kim

Minnette Meador said...

Maddie - I love sleep...in fact that's where a lot of my ideas come from. I have a "thinking" chair in my office where I sit back and ruminate. I often go into pre-REM and get great ideas. Walking is when I work out plot elements, as well as dialogue. Small world! M:)

Minnette Meador said...

"Who else can say that daydreaming is a necessary part of their job?" I LOVE that! Can I steal it from you? ~LOL~ Same with me...looks like walks are pretty popular! I thought I was the only one who talked to herself in public! I'll have to listen more closely...M:)

Denisse said...

Hi Minnette!

I would have to say many things inspire me. Look at life, things around you. I would say my tip would be to keep a small notepad to jot down things that inspire you. I find that at times I am working and I found that perfect line I was looking for. Best way to inspire your muse would be that of doing the things you love and relaxing. I think your best ideas come to you when you are doing things you love such as reading, painting, going out for a walk, going to the movies,etc.

Patricia said...

While I rarely have to hunt my muse, when I do I usually find her in my garden.

With my hands (gloved, of course, since dirty hands horrify me--hey, I'm entitled to a personal quirk) in the soil, the air redolent of loam and fertilizer and things that nourish other things, my mind takes a breather from the things I chose to think about and runs through whatever it will. Ten minutes, an hour, a pile of weeds, an empty hole,(who knows? The lights are on, but I'm elsewhere) and it happens. Suddenly, I'm firing on all cylinders, the gloves come off, and I'm looking for the nearest writing implement.

Hardly earth shattering (no pun inteneded), but it works for me.

Holly Greenfield said...

Love the post, Minnette. I have to utilize all the 'ates' as well. And like so many others my muse is a 'drunken sod.' LOL! I don't have a a good muse hunting theory, but I am looking forward to reading everyone else's.

Julie Robinson said...

Yes, Minnette, that creative muse is a fickle, flighty thing. I picture her as this little fairy flitting above my head, while I, in my dullard human doldrums, can only sit helplessly in my chair with a vague knowing that there is something I am supposed to write if I could but grasp her in mid air.
So, I take action. Talking to the two dogs and three cats provide an excellent sounding board while washing dishes. Pulling weeds is a great stress reliever and idea producer. However, I keep the gloves on because one of the kitties LOVES to use my beds as her outdoor litter box, especially after I've poured fresh soil. Walking the dogs is great. Wear headphone with no music and people will think you're singing along. Or carry a cell phone and talk into it. Some cells even have a recording device for a few minutes. Then again, you could just say you were talking to the dogs. I do! And I tend to get ideas while I'm driving. Keep a tape recorder (the old kind) handy or if your cell phone has a recorder, use it. I always keep a small notebook and retractable pen in the console for when I get to a stop light. I also keep a notebook and pen next to my bed. I've tried the tape recorder thing there too. Because writing a book is not done in just the time you sit down to write. The creative process is always churning. It's up to us to tap into it by writing it down when it occurs. It never fails that some great idea/dialogue fades into a distant memory when it's time to sit down and write. Thanks for the blog post. I could really relate to it. Julie

A. F. Stewart said...

I don't have to hunt the muse, it delights in hunting me. I can be minding my own business and wham something triggers an idea or a story line. Then I'm off hunting a scrap of paper, desperately repeating the idea in my head until I can write it down.
Even this morning I was innocently reading a writing article on the internet and something in the piece triggered an idea for a story.

Minnette Meador said...

Wow, some great responses! Thanks to Denisse, Patricia, Holly, Julie, and AF for the input...some great stuff here. I'm going to gived the contest two more days and then I'll pick a winner. This is going to be tough!!! M:)

Minnette Meador said...

Ok, Julia, just by sheer volume you win the prise. I think if I tried out even half of that, I'd be in inspiration city. I love running the ideas by my dog. He's a good listener. Congrats, girl! Send an email to mmeador at minnettemeador dot com and I'll send you your prise. Thanks to everyone else! M:)

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