Sunday, June 17, 2012

How to Poison Your Muse

Section of Arthur Hughes' The Lady of Shalott

I think I have poisoned my muse. She's been silent now for freakin' months. Sometimes I think I've killed her.

In case you've decided that writing is a mind-sucking, finance-draining, life-eroding waste of your time and mental energy, here's how I think I did it, so you can too.

1. Quit writing. Yep, finding the time and energy to write after every other freaking thing in your life can and has gone wrong quite simply sucks. So don't. Deal with the crap coming apart around you, the day job that leaches away every last piece of humanity and creativity you possess, and just quit opening the literary floodgates daily. Eventually that flood of words you've been counting on will just drain away to nothingness out the back corners of your brain and you won't have to worry about it anymore.

2. Quit reading. I can't remember whose advice it was to read 2,000 words a day and write 2,000 words a day, but damn it, that was awesome advice. (Somebody credit that one so I can give credit where credit is due!) By the way, reading Yahoo News does not count as reading, so feel free to keep up with Snooki's baby and the never-ending tide of Kardashianness. Just quit reading good stuff by people who are doing cool things with language and character. Quit stoking that fire and it'll go out.

3. Quit moving. Walking makes our mental processes sharper and that is an actual scientific fact. Heck, I used to plot out entire books at the ironing board. Ditch the treadmill and the morning walk. Ditch the cathartic rounds of housecleaning or leaf-raking or car-washing that used to rejuvenate you. Just sit on the couch and watch endless reruns of Family Feud. Include the family so you can disguise it as "bonding time."

4. Speaking of that, start watching more TV. Between endless reruns of Pawn Stars and Family Feud, my household's viewing habits have become downright toxic to brain cells. Our deepest topics of conversation involve debating the merits of Family Feud hosts. Steve Harvey is pretty damned funny---but don't bother with Richard Karns. You can tell he just doesn't want to be there. And John O'Hurley absolutely needs to just go to the house. See what I mean? My muse has tried to guess Top Answer Number 3 so many times that her brain has melted out her ears. 

5. In the absence of TV, be certain to surf the internet for any and all meaningless dodges of your real interests. Stay on Facebook looking for funny pictures--does George Takei have anything better to do with his time than put up hilarious pics? George, do a convention! Take a class! Remodel the great room! Find a hobby! Please!

In general, quit engaging with your creative life at all. Don't blog. Don't challenge yourself to think. Fail to make time for the writing part of your life that used to consume you and trust me, your muse will drop dead of neglect and starvation.

But the quiet that comes from your muse's demise won't be peaceful. It'll be a bitter, agonizing long silence that echoes back whispers of what you wanted to do, what you used to be. Your brain will transform into a mausoleum filled with the dead bones of characters you never fleshed out and walled up passages that used to lead to adventures you'll never have and places you'll never visit.

Well, that's how it feels in the graveyard of my creativity right now.

Okay, Muse, I've blogged--that counts as writing. I read something really good today (Ted Mendelssohn's The Wrong Sword which was SO funny and really well written--go buy it). The TV is OFF (at least as far as I am concerned--yes indeed, my son is watching Pawn Stars but I am NOT), and I'm about to go iron clothes then take a walk.

Muse, I expect you back on your feet and full of creative juice when I return. Damnit, I've got books to finish!


  1. Oh Arley. Join the club. With me, marketing has stifled the Musa into a dark cupboard and she ain't coming out any time soon. The stuff I do get to write (like maybe 100 words a day) is crap. Still want to write but it's more like a daydream than the fun it used to be.

    1. Can I just say how much I feel your pain!!!! Thanks for the support!! We're going to get it all back together. How about a writer's retreat? Just us Musa peeps. Some place where there is absolutely nothing else to do but write? I am so game.

  2. Arley,
    Ain't it just the truth! So many intrusions, so many ways to get distracted and stifle the muse. Vonnie, marketing and promotion is more time consuming than ever! Sometimes I just want to close myself up in a closet and write and forget about all the other stuff! We used to just have to worry about balance with family, etc. Now it's trying to fit writing and family around the facebook and promotion. Very backwards, but I'm promoting this month, then getting back to the writing next month! You've inspired me to go do the excersizes first, then at least write my next blog!

    1. Sometimes I think it is so much better to try to segement time like that. At least you can maintain concentration on the task at hand and not feel guilty that you aren't doing it all. I like that plan!! I'm going to steal it.

  3. Loved your post. My muse is going to appear again in September...she better or else :)

  4. Thanks so much, Eleni!! I hope your muse gets her act together soon! Mine better shape up or I'm going to trade her in for liquor!!! LOL!!! Or chocolate!!