As a side note, I’ve lost most of these notebooks and the ideas they held. The ones that made it to the computer largely have remained in exactly the same form that they came to life. I could only manage writing a small portion of the ideas that swamped me (every pun intended there).
The side effect of this outpouring was that I began to feel overwhelmed. I could sense this growing pile of ideas, each demanding their turn, and I only had two hands. I only had one mind. I didn’t have what it took to transcribe so much, to bring it all to life. Even though I edited almost nothing and wrote over 600,000 words each for two years, I barely dented the surface.
And that’s when I broke the unwritten muse contract a second time (the first being when I put writing aside). I told myself I would only bother to capture ideas that were complete and ready to write. Anything else wasn’t good enough.
Now I’ve heard several pro writers who have taken the same path, so I stand by my decision…with a caveat.
The way I decided was harsh. I didn’t play with ideas, I didn’t explore what I was discarding, I just slammed the door shut with a pithy, “come back when you’ve grown a little more.”
And thus began the cycles that resemble biorhythms or hormone fluctuations more than anything.
“I’ll never have another idea. I have nothing to write. I’m tapped out and my life as a writer is over.”
“Hmm, what if this happened? Why would this event be pivotal here? Oh, look, a full and complete book in one fell swoop.”
“Oh woe is me. I haven’t thought of something new in forever. I’m doomed.”
Imagine the above interspersed with friends pointing to all the ideas in my story ideas or books-to-be folders, or just pointing out that I’m actively writing a novel so maybe I don’t need new ideas at that very moment, and you can have a backseat position to my relationship with my muse.
I know I made some mistakes along the way. I know there’s a balance between too many ideas and feeling that I’ll never have another. I also know that many would scoff at my statements above knowing I write 10+ short stories every May and last year was the first since 2002 that I did not finish any novels (which was due to severe medical issues not creative ones). Even so I won the National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) with just over half of a contemporary, time-travel romance novel, using an idea that came fully dressed to the party less than a month before NaNo.
None of that changes how it feels to be me, and how it must feel to be my muse. A sure fire way to make a muse gun shy? Yell at her when she comes offering anything less than perfection. Never let her play with ideas in your conscious mind but only relegate such activities to the swamp where she has to get her Mary Janes covered in mud and potentially face one of those toxic bubbles.
Needless to say, I’m an expert at this behavior.
So yes, my relationship with my muse is anything but stable. However, I am making an effort to reach out, to open the doors of communication. Only time will tell how well it works, but already I think I can see Megan dancing around in the back of my mind. Hmm, and she thinks my next edit should be What You See, a science fiction novel I wrote a few years back. Interesting.
Now that’s communication for you. Of course the hard part is trying not to respond with a groan.
Margaret McGaffey Fisk is a moderator and administrator at Forward Motion and one of my trusted critique partners.
Your muse wears Mary Janes? Seriously? *blinks*
Terrific story, Margaret! I haven’t been giving my muse the time he deserves of late. It’s a good time to say, hey.
Thanks for coming by, Erin and Eve!