Monday, May 7, 2018

Poking the Muse (Who, Maybe, I Shouldn't Be Keeping in a Cage and Starving) by Jane Kindred

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that my muse seemed to have gone dark. I was hoping by this month’s blog post I’d have a happy “I’m writing so fast my fingers are cramping” post to write. Alas, I haven’t written a single word.

I know a lot of people don’t believe in writer’s block. They think it’s an excuse lazy people make for not being willing to put “butt in chair” and just do the work. I suspect those same people tell their depressed friends that if they just went outside and got some exercise and counted their blessings every day, they’d feel better.

I don’t know if this is writer’s block. I just know that I want to be writing, I have time to write, and I am not writing. I see other writers on Twitter talking about drowning in plot bunnies, telling their new characters clamoring for a story to get in line. And there’s nothing in my head.

Well, not entirely nothing. There are two characters who keep dancing at the edges of my dreams, but they refuse to come out into the light and play. I named them the other day—Armand and William—in hopes of coaxing them out of hiding, but to no avail. I know the skeleton of their story (it’s based on a popular fairy tale), and I have vague images of a fog-shrouded setting of stone statuary and an empty, cobwebbed manor estate, but Armand and William remain stubbornly silent.

I think part of my problem is that the panic of a deadline isn’t looming over me, and I’ve gotten used to panic-writing. Another part is my aging cat, who howls bloody murder if I do anything but sit on the bed and let him have my lap. Not to mention the existential angst of living in 2018. But if I had a real story brewing, those things wouldn’t matter (or at least they would be mere details, obstacles, incidental).

In the meantime, I’m anxious and worried about everything. Which is something I’ve always lived with, but not writing definitely exacerbates it. It’s like a constant feeling in the back of my mind that I’m going to get in trouble, I’ve done something wrong, or some karmic fate is going to catch up to me, some disaster I cannot escape.

Spinning other people’s fates has always had a remarkably calming effect on that background noise. I often wonder if other writers use their writing this way, consciously or otherwise. Giving their characters problems and flaws that they can eventually triumph over. Writing worlds that they, the author, can control when everything in the real, mundane world is so often out of our control. Writing as therapy. Maybe that’s something I can do. Maybe.

Maybe I’m doing it right now.

Maybe Armand and William need a therapist.


Diane Burton said...

I feel for you, Jane. That's a big predicament. I'm sure you've gotten all kinds of advice--good for some people but not for you. The other day, someone wrote about Morning Pages (from Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way). I wonder if you just continued writing what you wrote here. Cuss out Armand and William. Demand that they come out and play. Stream of consciousness writing. Anything to jump start the story. No advice about the cat (I'm not a cat person). 2018 isn't exactly the best year. So much stress watching the news. As you say, ordinarily you could put all the worries on the back burner and write. I hope something helps. Meditation? Just know that I'm thinking about you, and I'm sure others are, too.

Jane Kindred said...

Thanks, Diane. Stream-of-consciousness writing has always worked for me before, so I’m not sure why it hadn’t occurred to me to try it now. :)

Maureen said...

That has to be frustrating. I'm sorry to hear about your struggles. Sometimes if I'm stuck I try interviewing a character to get them talking, although I know the same things don't work for everyone. I have no suggestions for the attention-seeking cat, lol.

Nancy Gideon said...

That "no deadline" thing is a real issue. While I adore self-pubbing, there's no sense of accountability (yes, the fear factor!) to make it so by a certain date. You might try that reverse psychology trick - no writing, don't you dare, don't even THINK about writing. I try to do this when I finish a project to give myself a break and after a few days of not thinking about it, the words are there again just begging to get on the page.

Sorchia DuBois said...

Yep--we all feel your pain. My reason for getting writer's block is that I expect the words to trip lightly onto the page, perfectly formed from the very beginning. When they don't do that, I get a little panicky which dries up the creativity. You've gotten great advice and are probably on the road to recovery but I'll add my two cents. Sometimes I just write dialogue. Just let the characters talk about themselves or the conflict or their pasts. I've got a set of background questions I ask them and usually the plot flows from that. Ok, suggestion done. Know that we're rooting for you!

Elizabeth Fortin said...

Good luck. My immediate thought was freewriting about them, too, but I see Diane already mentioned that. You often throw a lot of dribbles away, but there are bound to be some jewels that spark a treasure trove. Just write anything is always the best solution. No matter what you write. Every day. Just write...she said as if it was easy and as if she herself took that advice every day....ahem.