July 27, 2012

When Your Muse Speaks, Do You Listen?

I had a bad week, mostly because of my current WIP. I had a disagreement with my agent. What the disagreement was, doesn’t matter. What does is that we had different visions for my book.


Photo credit: Nicolas Cherel

That made my Bad Week. We’ve always seen eye-to-eye on the big picture of my thriller. He’s offered sage advice, intuitive criticism, and each time when I thought it through, it was like a Vulcan Kal-tow experience where one piece pops the entire picture into crystalline clarity.

This week didn’t feel like that. I knew it was wrong like you know jumping into a pit of flames will hurt without doing it. And somewhere in my core, like never before, my muse revolted.

I went to sleep, pretty depressed if I’m being honest, and woke up with my Muse batting around in my head like a crazed bird, screaming about edits that had to be made. In short, she was telling me my agent was right–albeit her solution was different.

Which all gets me to the purpose of this post. People often talk about their ‘muse’, but what really is it? In Greek mythology, it is the goddesses who disseminates knowledge in the areas of inspiration, literature, and the arts. To writers, it’s our creativity–our right brain–that piece of our being where our writerly voice lives, where our innovation is nurtured, where we alone can go for insight into plot and character. We might confuse her/him with our sub-conscious or sixth sense and we might be right. S/he’s certainly invisible and guides you if you listen. She can’t be summoned–s/he’s fairly headstrong on that subject. I’ve tried, emptied my mind so s/he could fill it to no avail.

Here’s the important part so listen, especially if you’re new to this writing world: Your muse is the miracle worker. S/he’s that part inside of you that means anything can happen. S/he guides your hand to write better than you can with a voice you barely recognize as your own. Where you can’t see the path from Prologue to Epilogue, she takes your blind hand and guides you. Those nights you feel like your pen contains nothing but gibberish and are tempted to highlight and delete–don’t. In the fullness of day, your words may be magic.

I didn’t even know I had such a powerful muse before she invaded my dreams last night and slapped me around. Before my agent, one of my beta readers had suggested a massive plot twist that would mean weeks of rewrites. It was a thread that wound through 80% of the story. Just so you understand the enormity of futzing with this thread (to stick with my metaphor):

  • It changes the opening
  • It moves a plot crisis from being introduced half way through the book to within the first two chapters. I know you understand how much reweaving I will have to do.
  • It changes motivations of my characters. What was supposed to be a turning point is now a precipitating incident.

I’d have to pull it out, rework it, and reweave it. It would require concerted effort, a boatload of cerebral energy, and a degree of trust that it was a good change. Yes–that’s what my muse picked as the defining change.

This morning, I spent two hours staring out my office window at my gorgeous peaceful backyard with its glistening pool and bubbling fountain, my dog snarking around chasing his tail, and realized everything my agent wanted could be solved by listening to my muse.

The moral of this story: When your muse talks, listen. She’s your creativity, your instinct, your 6th sense about writing. She’s what will differentiate you from all other writers out there. Ignore her at your own writerly peril.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and four ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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