Today’s post comes from guest blogger and winner of the Writer Unboxed AlphaSmart 3000 contest Kelly Boyce, who has a great blog site of her own called It Was A Dark & Stormy Night. We asked Kelly if she would like to elaborate on the killing of her muse for WU and she said she’d be happy to. So without further ado, heeeeere’s Kelly…
The Death of the Muse
My muse and I have always had a rather rocky relationship. You see, I’m a bit of a workhorse, nose to the grindstone type of girl. If I have something I want to accomplish, I make a plan and I go to it. My muse on the other hand isn’t in possession of the same work ethic. In fact, I’m not sure she has a work ethic at all. She shows up late, if she shows up at all, keeps odd hours, can be belligerent and unmanageable. But every time I had reached my limit with her, she would surprise me with something brilliant and I’d make the decision to keep her around.
After all, what’s a writer without a muse, right?
My muse teased me all through my twenties. Tossing one inspiring idea after another into my lap and then taking off just when the work needed to begin. I floundered, stared off into space, tried to call her back, coaxed her, threatened her. Nothing worked. She still showed up when she wanted to regardless of whether it was convenient for me. Meanwhile, the ideas lay fallow in my mind, gathering dust.
Then she delivered an idea so inspiring I couldn’t let it go. The characters begged me to tell their story. I decided to try a different tactic. I would buckle down. Write every day. Ignore my muse. Five days a week I went into the office early and wrote from 7-9 AM. Some days were hard; others I was so far in the zone I didn’t realize the time until my co-workers began to arrive and settle in. Six months later I had an epic 800 page novel. My first historical romance. I had done it. Without the muse.
I should have killed her then, but I thought I still needed her. After all, she had provided the original idea. But by 35, with no other manuscript to my credit I realized this wasn’t working. At this rate, I’d never make this a full time gig. I thought back to the time I wrote my first completed manuscript. The process of sitting there each morning for two hours working regardless of how easily the words came–or didn’t. The thrill of getting up each morning, knowing that was how I would start my day.
That’s when it dawned on me. It wasn’t about the muse.
It was about the work. It was about being persistent. Having a routine. Sticking with it. Dedicating myself to the craft, to the story. I could no longer wait for the muse to inspire me, I had to inspire myself. But the muse is a jealous mistress. She whispered in my ear–you can’t do it without me. She made me doubt, filled me with fear. She had to go.
So I killed her. And I haven’t regretted it for a minute.
Writing is a creative process, no doubt. But it’s also a job. And it can be honed to a habit if you are persistent. Like anything, the more you use the creative juices, the easier they flow. Not always. There will still be days when the words stutter out like something strung together by a third-grader. But those are the days when it’s most important to keep at it, to not turn away. If you churn out only one page, one paragraph it doesn’t matter. What matters is you made the decision to do it. You believed enough in yourself and your ability to persevere, to say the hell with the muse and do the work anyway.
I want to make this a full-time career. My muse was not a full-time kind of girl and I was too impatient to wait for her to change. I have things to do, books to write. So each and every morning I wake up at 5:45 AM and write for two hours. Good days and bad. Sometimes the words are as inspiring as, ‘See Spot Run.’ Other days they leave me amazed.
And that’s the way life is without the muse. Regular. Steady. Hard work. Every day without fail, without waiting.
Inspiration doesn’t need to come from the muse, it lives inside of you. You just have to feed it regularly with persistence.