Muses are rather like Great Pyrenees dogs: the more you try to bend them to your will, the more stubborn they become. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the missing muses. Great news! My muses are no longer missing. Instead, they’re being reticent. Or shy. Or. . .stubborn, and thus the comparison. The Great Pyrenees dog is bred to guard livestock. These dogs often live with their flocks or herds from puppy-hood onward, and they’re bred to think independently, to make decisions on how to protect their charges. These are the kind of dogs that, if you throw a tennis ball, they will give you a look that clearly says, “Why on earth would you throw that ball? Now someone has to go get it! Foolish human.” They will then lie down and wait for someone – a human – to get the ball. (For those unfamiliar with the breed – they look a bit like polar bears – click here for more info.)
Likewise, the more I tried to force some new ideas to appear, the higher my stress levels and frustration became, and the less present my muses became. They were not going to be forced into delivering great ideas, simply because I wanted them to do so. Clearly, a new approach was needed. Instead of writing, I read. In fact, you could say I binge-read short stories for the two weeks.
I’d forgotten how much I love reading short stories.
After the first week of reading, I noticed something delightful – I not only wanted to write, but was excited to write. Off I went to the closest Barnes and Noble, where I spent two glorious hours away from home and work and chores; after re-reading the story I’d been working on, it was obvious that it was long past time to write the protagonists’ back story. Hurray! I had a writing purpose, idea, and inspiration!
After an hour, I had a lovely character sketch drafted, and I’d learned some things about my character, Rachel. It was so much fun to dig into who she was and how she became the person I see. I’m anxious to do an interview with her next, which is a technique that author Gerry Boyle taught at a lovely conference called Maine Crime Wave a few years ago. Fantastic technique, and I don’t use it nearly often enough. (NOTE: If you haven’t read Gerry’s books, go – right now – and purchase or borrow one. I’ll wait. His books are that good!) With Rachel’s sketch fresh in my mind, I’m ready to jump back into the story, and begin layering in all sorts of delicious details.
Later, I went home and read more short stories. Now, ideas are buzzing around me like insects in a summer garden; whizzing and whirring and buzzing, my brain, like that garden, is full of wonderful energy again. The lesson, for me, is to remember that the writing comes from reading. If I don’t maintain a balance of reading great stories that inspire me as a writer, along with actual writing, I can get lost – and the Muses decide to play hide and seek. (My Great Pyrenees mix will watch, and wait for me to figure things out all over again.)
Lovely readers, where do you find inspiration – for writing or other creative pursuits?