Friday, July 24, 2015

Seeking the Muse

By Jason P. Henry

Throughout my life I have been an artist, a musician, and now a writer. Creativity runs thick in my blood. As a result, I have spent (perhaps wasted) a lot of time seeking the muse. She was such an elusive, fleeting, little tart. I always felt like I was three steps behind her, that I didn’t have what it took to catch up and drain her of the inspiration I desperately needed. I was a vampire, thirsty for that creative rich blood, and I was dehydrating.


Then I learned a valuable lesson about her. She was there, within my grasp, the whole time. My muse, she’s a stalker. The whole time I was looking for her, she was standing right behind me, waiting for me to turn around so she could smack me and say, ‘Here I am, stupid, now sit your butt down and write.’ When I learned, better yet, when I accepted, how devious my muse truly is, I stopped looking for her. I simply started waiting for those subtle, sucker punches and her sultry, little voice seductively whispering the words ‘Here I am’ into my ear.

Now, without trying, I see her everywhere; standing on street corners, in the seat behind me, across the room at a restaurant, in the news, on the radio, and even on the vehicle in front of mine. No matter where I am, she’s there. She doesn’t just kick me in the gut me to get my attention either, sometimes she does all she can to completely frazzle my nerves. Her approach is more like a haunting. Ever wake up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night, open your eyes, and then crawl out of your skin because you are certain there was a face leaning over the bed and staring at you? Yeah, my muse can be a lot like.

An example? Thanks for asking.

A couple of weeks ago I was driving along, happy and content, not even thinking about writing. Then I rolled to a smooth stop at a red light, right behind a dark blue S.U.V. with its rear window decorated. The window was adorned with a memorial. Not uncommon but, for some reason, this one caught my attention.

In Memory of
Jason
Gone but NEVER forgotten.
RIP
11-6-74

It was a little unsettling to see my first name on a memorial like that. Not that I have an unusual name, it was the principle of the matter. However, what really rattled my cage was the apparent date of death, which happens to be the exact date of my birth. Now, regardless of your beliefs, that’s enough to jolt even the most steadfast fortitude. I told you, my muse is not a nice person, and she had just throat punched me. When I was able to breathe again I realized that, once more, reality had just become stranger than fiction. A story was already writing itself about a guy who develops an unhealthy obsession after seeing such a heart-stopping tribute.

I write thriller, suspense, and horror. So it would seem that this life moment was tailored to my style. Who knows me better than my muse, right? The truth is, it’s suitable for many genres. A romance author could have seen the same memorial and went a completely different direction than I’ve gone. That’s the beauty of inspiration, the same moment can move twenty different people in twenty different ways.

Pardon my language for a moment, because it’s time for me to share a little secret. Writer’s block is bullshit, it’s an excuse. There, I said it. How many of you hate me now? Here’s another one: The muse is a farce, a ghost, she’s more fictional than your novel. Personally, I love the term ‘muse’, regardless of how mythical it is. But, ‘muse’ is a word used by artists to describe something they are looking for, that they hope will provide them with inspiration.

Stop looking! Every moment of every day, regardless of your genre, you are surrounded by writing material. You simply have to be willing to open your mind (not your eyes) and take notice. Train your brain. Know your genre and then start looking at the world differently. Look at everyday things and ask yourself, how could I use that in my writing? Soon, you’ll find inspiration comes naturally, and you too can call your muse a stalker.

When he's not working with the dedicated and passionate people of Pikes Peak Writers, Jason P. Henry is lost in a world of serial killers, psychopaths, and other unsavory folks. Ask him what he is thinking, but only at your own risk. More often than not he is plotting a murder, considering the next victim, or twisting seemingly innocent things into dark and demented ideas. A Suspense, Thriller and Horror writer with a dark, twisted sense of humor, Jason strives to make people squirm, cringe, and laugh. He loves to offer a smile, but is quick to leave you wondering what lies behind it. Jason P. Henry is best summed up by the great philosopher Eminem “I'm friends with the monsters beside of my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head.” Learn more about Jason at JasonPHenry.com

35 comments :

  1. Nora Roberts, who's written more books than most people read in a lifetime has a few comments about the "muse."

    “Every time I hear writers talk about ‘the muse,’ I just want to bitch-slap them. It’s a job. Do your job.”

    "You're going to be unemployed if you really think you just have to sit around and wait for the muse to land on your shoulder."

    "Well, first: There ain't no muse. If you sit around and wait to channel the muse, you can sit around and wait a long time. It's not effortless."

    "The Muse is a Fickle Bitch."

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    1. This is great!
      I think it's healthy to entertain the idea of a muse if it's working. But, if you find she isn't showing up, then it's time to face reality and simply sit your ass down and write.

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    2. It's also important to remember that what works for Nora or Terry, isn't necessarily what works for everyone else. And neither of them have the "right" process for the rest of us. It isn't even accurate to measure your success by the numbers. I don't want to write as many books as Nora Roberts. I don't want to be glued to my writing chair eight hours a day seven days a week except for holidays. That's fine for Nora, but not for me. There are other parts of my life that are more important. Some days, planting vegetables is bigger than reading or writing. I try not to judge people for not growing their own foods, much less what their writing process is, because everyone's personal paradigm is different. Muse, writing partner, black cat... use whatever tools you need to accomplish your own goals.

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    3. This is a terrific discussion, and I agree that nobody has the "right" answer for everyone. There is no hard and fast rule that instantly makes one a writer. We do what we can, when we can, considering carefully all of the advice we encounter along the way.

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    4. Most important thing is to write the story. You make all the necessary rule-based corrections later. Don't allow the creative energy to be disrupted.

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  2. I love this post, Jason, and I so agree. And thanks, Terry. I've read Nora's comments before, and she's absolutely right. I've been going through not writer's block and not a lack of ideas, but a lack of motivation. I just slapped myself and will get back to work.

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    1. One thing I've learned is that sometimes life just simply gets in the way. If I am experiencing a lack of focus, or an inability to get words down, it's not 'writer's block'. It just means there is something more important trying to get my attention. If I figure out what that is and either address it or dismiss it, I find that I am able to sit down and the words flow. As much as I would love to write every waking hour, it's just not realistic. You have to take care of life as much as you need to write... find balance.

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    2. I agree with that, Jason. And the older one gets, the less energy reserves. It's hard to be creative when you're tired.

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  3. Writer's block is a form of internal resistance, the same as when you balk at doing anything in life: that party you don't really want to go to, an assignment at work that fills you with dread, a dentist appointment. Figure out what's causing the resistance then you can get back to it. Inspiration is everywhere. The hard work starts when you try to grow that story seed into a short story or novel. Which can often lead to writer's block. :)

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  4. Wonderful post, Jason. Thanks so much for being a guest here at The Blood-Red Pencil. I hear would-be writers lamenting that their muse just isn't speaking to them, but they don't stop all the busyness long enough to let the creativity flow.

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    1. You're welcome, Maryann. But it is truly my pleasure. I love the conversations here. I think people forget that it's okay to take a break. Sometimes you simply have to step away for a few then sit down and try again.

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    2. One of my good buddies used to joke that when she got stuck in a story she would go wash dishes, or dust furniture, and doing that mindless work helped her get unstuck. I find that a quick walk works well, too. I'm allergic to housework. LOL

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  5. I've never used 'waiting for my muse' as an excuse for not writing, Jason ... I've used a thousand other things as excuses, just not that particular one.

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    1. Chris, you ARE our muse here at the BRP. :D

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    2. One things is certain about writers... we are a creative bunch. Both when it comes to making up stories and excuses!

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  6. I've never bought into the muse mentality, so I haven't had to deal with her nasty disposition. What I have dealt with is the place-your-posterior-in-the-chair-and-your-fingers-on-the-keyboard-and-write directive. Now! As you note, we live in a world filled with all manner of inspirations. All we need to do is pay attention, change the angle, and ask, "What if?" Thanks so much for visiting us, Jason. Love your article. :-)

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    1. Thank you, Linda! This was a fun one to write. And I have found inspiration in some of the unlikeliest of places..... including a porta-potty on the middle of a frozen pond! :)

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  7. This is great, Jason. Thanks for sharing the aMUSEment!

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  8. Excellent post, Jason! I'll be linking to it in my own weekend update.

    However, I do have a "muse." She looks like that green-faced wicked witch in Wizard of Oz, and she sits on my shoulder and pokes me in the head with the broom handle while viciously berating me. She never gives me ideas because I have plenty of my own, but she makes my life miserable when I'm not working on one of my writing projects.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My post on the muse is up (with all the good links back to the BRP) at: http://patriciastolteybooks.com/2015/07/the-muse-who-is-she-anyway/

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  9. Patricia, I will have to watch for your update so I can read it!

    I think it's incredibly ironic that my ex is your muse! Small world. HAHA!

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    1. Wicked bad, Jason! Hahahaha.

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    2. LOL -- I just came back to pick up a quote for my own blog post and saw your reply, Jason. It truly is a small world!

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  10. Fun post, Jason. I don' t believe in writer's block either. I learned to write in a newsroom, where saying, "Sorry I didn't finish the story, but I had writer's block," will get you fired. Igor Stravinsky seems to have best captured how inspiration works for me: "Just as appetite comes by eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning." Inspired or not, I just keep working until the muse shows up, that tardy little tease.

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    1. She is definitely a tease. I used to fool myself with the whole writers block myth, but I finally trained myself to be able write as soon as my butt is in the chair

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    2. Cara, I agree that newspaper experience helps us with the discipline and the ability to prime the creative pump, so to speak. Most of the stories I wrote for the newspaper started out pretty bland and about three graphs in, is where it all started to click.

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  11. You know, we should do a post with pictures of our respective muses if we have them. I actually have two. My book hero and Christopher Walken. LOL.

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    1. Would be interesting to see what gets posted.

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  12. Jason, I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you, Susan. I'm glad you enjoyed it. And you are most definitely welcome!

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  13. Thank you, Ernest, very happy to hear it!

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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