Saturday, July 23, 2011

Do you rely on muse or discipline?

I took a writing class some years ago, and my teacher was a midlist genre writer who'd gotten his first contract after submitting an unagented manuscript and making it through the slush pile. Impressed, all us students had the same question for him: How did you do it?

His answer was simple and sobering: he wrote. A thousand words every day, no matter what. Even if they were crappy words, he made them happen. He'd wake up early, go to sleep late, put off deadlines for other, seemingly more important, projects. His wife had some nicknames for his word-count focus, he said, though he didn't say what they were.

They probably didn't include the word muse.

As a creature of significantly less discipline, I rely on the muse, on feeling the story, on letting it write itself. Because when it works, when the muse is speaking to me, it feels so damned good. Like magic. Like winning. Like sex. On the flip side, when the muse isn't talking to me, I feel like such a fraud.

I'm trying to break my dependence on her, that on-again off-again bitch, but it's hard going. I keep thinking about my teacher and his insistence on a thousand words a day, no matter what. He wrote his first novel while in law school, so I know he wasn't exactly swimming in spare time. Surely I can carve out time every day for a thousand stinking words. Surely. Maybe that's the difference between a hobbyist and a professional writer, this ability to churn words even when you aren't feeling it.

I just keep reminding myself that one of the three original Greek muses was Melete, practice.

5 comments:

Randi Alexander said...

Ah, Vivien, you've hit on one of my sticking points. Sometimes, I just don't feel like writing or editing. Do I take time to read blogs, update my website, social network? Or do I force myself to write? I've come to a happy medium. I meditate and try to invoke my muse. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - and then I clean my closet! Thanks for the great post!

William Kendall said...

I find myself in between, relying on both discipline and muse to get me through the writing process.

I love the imagery!

Cara Bristol said...

I've actually done it both ways -- waited to write until the muse spoke and sat my ass in the chair on schedule and wrote when I didn't feel like it. The former feels wonderful. It's like flying. The latter sometimes feels like slogging hip deep through mud with both legs shackled together.

But...you know the old saying, the harder you work, the luckier you get? The same is true with the muse. The more disciplined I am, the more often the muse visits.

I'm just trying to keep her happy...

Savanna Kougar said...

I definitely rely on both. The muse, and I love her, can only take you so far. As well, discipline can only take you so far. To me, it's a marriage between the left brain and the right brain.

However, if the muse doesn't cooperate at all, like the past week, well, I'm just spinning my wheels... in this case, I think she was contrary for a couple of reasons, one of them being a I discovered a potential new path to take my writing.

Ooooh, the imagery is absolutely stunning!

Becca Simone said...

I've just started writing 1k/day no matter what. Many times the words are just rambling and talking to myself, trying to figure out what comes next. But other times the words just flow...after I get through the first 200 words or so. It's kinda like running--the first 2 miles are hell (why I never run), after that it gets easier.