Voices in my head

I’m about two-thirds of the way through a rough first draft of my current manuscript, a story about the daughter of a country music icon trying to step out of her dead mother’s shadow. The End is in sight, and from this point on, the rest should feel like an easy downhill slide; a last, easy charge to the finish line.

The reality? Some days it does, other days it doesn’t.

On really good days, the story plays out in my head like a movie. My characters take the lead, telling me what they want to say, showing me where they want to go. They dictate what happens next, paying no attention to  my carefully plotted outline. I always let them, because those are the days when magic happens, when my characters surprise me by doing or saying something I didn’t see coming. Those are the days I can’t type fast enough. I love every word, too, even the ones I know need tweaking. 

On other days, my characters fall flat and silent. They stand around, wooden and lifeless, shrugging and sighing and rolling their eyes. I move them around like chess pieces, trying to prod them into action. They dig in their heels and glare. They tell me I’m too pushy. They tell me they need space. I put down the laptop and stalk away, angry and frustrated. I created them, and now they don’t they love me anymore?

museI have enough writer friends to know my characters aren’t the only ones to have split personalities — happy and helpful one day, surly and silent the next. Some writers attribute it to their muse, but to be perfectly honest, I think the concept of a writing muse is a load of baloney. Hard work is my muse. Determination is my muse. Stubbornness, too.

When my characters tell me they need space, it typically means need space. For me, physical exertion — a run around the neighborhood, a trip to the gym — does the trick, and I return to my keyboard with new energy and ideas. But my point is, my muse has nothing to do with it. If I sat around waiting for her to strike, if I didn’t push through the bad days to get to the good, I’d never finish writing this book. 

Yes, there are some magical moments when the story seems to write itself. Enough to keep me in love with the process, and with my story.

But most days, I slog through and write it myself. I’m a writer, and that’s what I do — write.

Other writers, what about you? Do you have a muse? How do you handle things when she stops talking to you?

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About Kimberly S. Belle

Kimberly Belle grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. A graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, Kimberly lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and has worked in marketing and fundraising for various nonprofits. She's the author of two novels, THE LAST BREATH and THE ONES WE TRUST (August 2015). She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. Keep up with Kimberly on Facebook (www.facebook.com/KimberlyBelleBooks), Twitter (@KimberlySBelle), or via her website at www.kimberlybellebooks.com.

Posted on January 10, 2014, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. i just finished TWO weeks of writer’s block. The longest I’ve ever experienced. In a word, it was TERRIFYING! With the holidays and a release in December, I’m coming up against my deadline quickly, so I couldn’t afford the delay. I tired to write through it, but everything I wrote sounded like a fourth grader wrote it. I’m serious when I say was terrified!

    I called one of my writing pals–another blogger on this site–and she told me to start somewhere else in the book. I managed 2k that day–not pretty–but definitely salvageable once the voices in my head decided to start talking to me again.

    I agree that sometimes you just have to step away, take a walk, go for a run, watch a movie, or phone a friend to get the creative juices going again. No one understands like another writer!

    See you at the finish line!

  2. I hear you, Tracy, and honestly, that’s what I’m most terrified about now that I’m starting my debut year. What if it happens when I’m on deadline? Yikes! Glad to hear you and your characters are on speaking terms again. 🙂

  3. I agree with you, Kimberly, about this “muse” thing. When I’m writing like a house on fire it’s all because I’m in a good groove. Sometimes I have total writer’s block and I need to step away and get away and do something mind-freeing, like ride my horse or whatever. I have never felt I had this elusive-souding “muse” on my shoulder, whispering sweet glorious perfect words into my ear that I wrote down on the page. Nah! Don’t believe in that FOR ME. It’s hard work with a dash of self-preservation via means like riding a bike and such that get the words onto the page.

    • I WISH I had a muse on my shoulder, Patti! I’d bribe her with jewels and spoil her rotten, as long as she kept whispering in my ear. But alas, it’s all hard work and pushing through the bad stuff. Thanks for your comment!

  4. I talk out loud to my muse, and talk and talk and talk, until she finally decides to answer me. 🙂 Sometimes, like this last week, she’s stubborn and doesn’t want to come out to play (or should that be work?) but eventually she gets sick and tired of listening to me, and gives me what I need. Either that or I’m just talking to myself. Your choice, Kimberly, whatever gets the work done!

  5. Lately, my muse is a fickle witch who gets distracted by shiny objects. In the past month, I’ve started novels in three different genres. I can’t stick with just one, because I’m afraid I’ll forget the story ideas.

    But when I’ve got writer’s block, it generally means one of four things: 1) I’m struggling with something in my personal life, and my unconscious mind doesn’t have the bandwidth for storytelling; 2) I’ve lost my way somewhere in the story, and I need to backtrack until I figure out where I took the wrong path; 3) it’s an editing day, not a writing day; or 4) I hate everything and will delete the entire manuscript if I don’t step away from the computer and come back the next day instead.

    Physical activity, like taking a walk or doing laundry, is a great way to let ideas percolate in your unconscious mind, so that you come back to the manuscript refreshed. But there’s also that element of “butt-in-chair, fingers-on-keyboard.” Writing is work, and often you have to write a bunch of crap to clear your head before you get to the good stuff. Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out which brand of writer’s block you have so that you can overcome the problem and move on.

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