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?
I 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 I 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?