The Elusive Muse
That quote from the dancer, Mikhail Barshnikov, comes as close as anything I can think of to expressing what writing means to me. It captures the exhilaration of creating a world out of words and sharing that world with others. I completely identify with the statement, but there are times when the exhilaration is hard to find, when it’s almost suffocated by doubt and frustration.
Does that mean that my writing isn’t really art? That’s not for me to say (or even know). I can only do my best and hope. What I hope most is that it gives pleasure.
Do I have pleasure in writing? Depends on when you ask me. When the words flow easily–definitely. When I’m struggling to find the right words–not so much. How about when I’m stumped for a way to extricate my characters from the dilemma I’ve created for them? The answer to that is mixed. Part of my brain says, “Give it up. Turn off the computer. Make a cup of tea and have a brownie.” Another part says, “Keep going. Dig a little deeper. Your muse will show up.” I wish I could say the latter part always wins. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. More often than I like to admit, the call of chocolate is louder than my muse. When that happens, sometimes I go back refreshed and everything falls into place. Other times, problems seem to have multiplied in my absence. In the end, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that I do go back, because if I do, I know eventually I’ll work it out. And that knowledge is pleasure.
Right now I’m deep into edits for Lethal Journal, the next book in the Jennie Connors Riverview Manor mystery series. Editing is usually the most enjoyable part of writing for me. I say usually because this time I’m having trouble finding exactly the right note for one of the characters – a very important one. I want the readers to know this person, but I don’t want to hit them over the head by telling them what makes him tick. So, I tinker with different things he might say that will inadvertently (to him) clue readers that he’s not quite what he wants everyone to think he is. How does he dress? To impress? Or to disarm? What little tics of behavior does he display? Maybe I can work in a scene where he doesn’t think anyone’s watching. How will his behavior be different? I don’t need much – just a little bit, but at the moment that little bit is eluding me. It’s not time to panic. I’m confident if I follow my own advice (Keep going. Dig a little deeper), my muse will show up. Actually, that may not be quite true. Most of the time my muse doesn’t just show up. I have to go looking for her. I intend to keep looking until I find her. When I do – pure pleasure. At least for me and I sincerely hope for the reader.
What about you? What do you find pleasurable in writing? Or reading? Or whatever you do that both exhilarates and frustrates you?