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The muse and me.

The other day I posted a wee snark about wishing to learn to write rough drafts faster, and I got a comment that I've been thinking about ever since:

May I suggest only a little faster? Somewhat faster? Don't knock your muse on the head and demand more, she works, let her set the pace.

So I'm going to riff on this muse idea...

I'm not going to write about literal Muses, because I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure I've never met one. I'm going to write about one's own muse, the thing people talk about when they're talking about inspiration, or their source of creativity. There's an idea out there that this part of the self, the muse, is uncontrollable, hard to understand, and in charge of creative activities. Maybe it's supposed to be the subconscious mind. I believe that the mind works on different levels, but I object to the notion that there's nothing we can do with the muse, that it does its thing and we must accept whatever it throws out, whenever it sees fit to throw it.

The mind is trainable. With practice, and good input, and bodily maintenance to keep the brain healthy, it's possible to learn new things and improve at them. Diligent practice at writing might not sound like a creative thing, but I swear that it is. It creates new pathways in the brain and reinforces them, and it prepares the brain to generate more ideas and better ways of expressing them.

I don't think that I rely much on musish creativity during the rough draft stage, anyway. I do a lot of imagining and note-taking during the pre-writing stage, coming up with the ideas and characters and putting together what's going to happen. The rough draft part is mostly typing it out in order. The revisions involve some creativity--better word-choices, better sentence-rhythms, and so on--and some analytical thinking about what's really necessary and what should be added or cut out. I know that many writers compose on the fly, but when I've tried that approach it has not worked out. I need to have a map, then go. Usually I'll get a few ideas along the way, so I'm not a strict pre-plotter; I'm open to making changes. Completely making it up as I go along, however, is not my way. Often spontaneous writers will say that having an outline takes away the fun of writing the story. I find it more fun to be able to fly along, describing things and writing dialogue, without having to stop and figure out what's going to happen next all the time.

Well, then. Now you know a bit more about what's happening over here when I'm tapping on the keys. :)

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jan. 21st, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
Hey Nayad,

Just wanted to let you know that I completely agree with your description of the writing process in your last paragraph. That's the way it works for me too (although I am strictly amateur by definition so take that for what it's worth).

I do feel, however, that I don't have much control over what strikes me during the "imagining and note taking" stage that you mention. Obviously I'm inspired by things I read, hear, or see, so as far as training the muse, the only thing that I'd say works for me is reading, listening to, and watching a variety of interesting things and then taking the time to think about them when I have a chance.
strangertides
Jan. 21st, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
Oops.
That was me above, sorry. As you can see, I'm not only an amateur writer, I'm an amateur LJer, which explains why I didn't notice I wasn't logged in. However, I blame LJ for not letting me edit comments to fix things like this!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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