Today’s guest is Mary Sharratt, whose latest book, The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2016), is drawn from the dramatic life of ground-breaking Renaissance poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanier. The award-winning author of six critically acclaimed novels, Sharratt is an American who has lived in Germany and England for more than two decades. She is on a mission write women back into history. She lives in Pendle Witch country in Lancashire, England.
While I was writing my most spiritual novel thus far, Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2012), I started a daily meditation practice and kept with it ever since. With the publishing world becoming increasingly cutthroat, my practice feels more essential than ever, offering me the refuge of an inner sanctuary where I can drink from the wellsprings of inspiration.
Calling on the Muse: A Meditation for Writers
The world at large might view novelists as creative free spirits rocking la vie bohème, but we writers know that it’s much more complicated than that. We’re struggling to earn a living in one of the most competitive industries on the planet, writing books which might actually be redundant in their physical paper form in a decade or two. We tend to measure our success or failure on factors completely beyond our control, such as our publisher’s marketing budget and our reviews—if we actually get any reviews!
I know that I’ve often wrestled with the feeling that I’ll never be enough. Never be big enough. Never sell enough. Never earn an impressive enough advance to break out and matter. Sometimes it’s hard not to succumb to a flailing sense of helplessness—why are any of us doing all this? Worst of all is my fear of creative dryness—that my inspiration will turn to dust and I’ll never write—let alone publish—another book.
My meditation practice offers me a refuge from this churning maelstrom of fear and insecurity.
As writers we can spend so much time in our competitive, ego-based minds that we lose track of the deep wellspring of creativity within our own being, from which our novels and stories arise. When we take time to retreat to this inner sanctuary, we can literally revisit why we’re in this business in the first place—because we have this inner voice, this font of inspiration that is crying out to be noticed, to be birthed into being through our writing and shared with the world.