Yesterday, I wrote a sort of angry letter to my muse, telling him (it is a he) that unless he came up with ideas, I wasn’t going to write anything else except memos and shopping lists. I felt melodramatic afterwards, but I’m sick and tired of going to the blank page day after day and straining to come up with. Stephen King thinks of his muse as the fat guy who sits in the corner of the room smoking cigars whilst King does all the donkey work. So it is with me. Unless my muse gives me something, that’s it, we’re finished.
They say that, if you want something done, delegate it to a busy person. That person’s mindset is already thinking speed, efficiency; you don’t need to wind her up. Another way of putting it is, that you get ideas when you’re already working on something else. Ideas come to you at a time when you don’t need them just yet. That’s definitely the case with me. Right now, when all I need is one workable story idea, I’ve got nothing.
You can’t do anything without the muse. He might not do a lot, but the little that he does do is crucial. Unless you get a story idea which you think is good, which you think that you can write, and which excites, perhaps even scares you, it’s no good. The conscious mind can do everything else, but it cannot supply that spark.
Anyway, maybe now is the time for a change of pace. I’m re-reading Natalie Goldberg’s Thunder And Lightning, her book about turning your writing practice pieces into finished work. She says that if you are a beginner writer, you should do writing practice for five years before you attempt to write something for somebody else to read. If you have been writing already, you should give yourself six months when all you do is writing practice.
I balked when I first read that. 6 months of nothing but writing practice? I’ve got deadlines to meet, competitions to enter, things that I want to write. I want to make enough money to quit my job.
But this week, I’ve been doing writing practice (which does have a slightly religious element- Natalie Goldberg uses the word practice as in buddhist meditation) all week, and to be honest, it feels like a big, long job, to get in touch with my own mind. I’ve gone over some painful stuff, and it’s left me feeling raw. Sometimes I’ve felt angry or depressed for no apparent reason.
What I think is happening is this: that I’m going through a personal change. This week, I also picked up an anthology of poetry and a copy of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. I’ve also began to watch/read/listen to the news, and have begun collecting newspaper stories. Simultaneously, I’m reading up about political and social matters. I want to try to get to grips with both my past and the world around me. I want to try to write a straightforward contemporary story, perhaps as a novel, perhaps as a short story, perhaps as a drama script. And that means digging deep.