Muse, n. Any of nine daughters of the Greek gods Mnemosyne and Zeus, each of whom presided over a different art or science
muse, n. a) a guiding spirit b) a source of inspiration
enthusiasm, n. Ardent eagerness, zeal (Greek root translates as “inspired by a god”)
Like most people who write, I hope to publish someday. I have five first drafts of novels in my office, not counting this year’s NaNoWriMo attempt. For the last four years, the majority of my writing time has gone to one in particular with the goal of sending it out when it’s ready. Just lately, I was so focused on making that book publishable that I was more worried about what others would think about it than whether or not what I was writing was appropriate to my story.
Not surprisingly, I hit a wall. I had a chapter that felt like it wasn’t mine. I suddenly worried that the entire book was at risk, that I’d lost myself in the woods chasing after the fairy lights of publication instead of sticking with the proper path of process. I was so desperate to write something someone else would like that I was writing things I didn’t actually like myself. I was so focused on success that I scared my muse away.
If you haven’t done this before, I can tell you, it’s depressing and scary. For me, three things happened.
1) I stopped enjoying writing.
2) I lost faith in my book.
3) I lost faith in myself as a writer.
When I finally realized what was happening, I had to set the book aside and promise myself I would get back to it after I’d enticed my muse to return. Without her, all my enthusiasm for writing was gone and I was lost. Of the three things on the list, having fun seemed the most critical. If I don’t enjoy writing, at least some of the time, then why bother? And I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had fun.
So in early October, I decided I wouldn’t look at my problem book until at least December, and would once again spend November writing a first draft along with the rest of the book fanatics who write during National Novel Writing Month. The one reason I have come back to NaNoWriMo for the last five years was made clear to me when, in 2007, I was wondering if I should sign up again and my sister reminded me how much fun I had had the year before.
As dreadful as this past October was, with the horrible sense that I’d been working for years on a book I couldn’t save and that maybe I’m nuts for thinking about writing in the first place, I looked forward to November. I promised myself that my sense of joy could be revived, that if I gave myself a chance, and made a point of picking a project that sounded like fun, I would actually have fun, and that my missing muse would return.
I didn’t have faith in my book or myself, but I had faith in NaNoWriMo.
On the first of November, I woke up awash with ideas about a cursed prince and a brave princess and I was off and running. I was nearly manic, I was so full of enthusiasm for my ideas. My muse was back with bells on, and writing was fun again.
Thank you, NaNoWriMo. Long may your insane idea of writing just for the fun of it reign.
Day 14 update: Today’s word count is 1938. I found it harder than usual to write. The drakon has a strange way of talking, plus the scenes I’d seen in my head yesterday didn’t pan out the way I expected them to today. But I can tell you, I had some fun.