As a writer, I’m often asked where I get the ideas for the stories I write. The ideas are the easy part. The hard part is sitting down and letting the muse have her way. Ha!
I guess I’ve always loved to play pretend. After all, I did go to college to be an actor. I loved the feeling of stepping into someone else’s life and pretending, learning what their lives might be like. It was escapism, for sure. Anyone in a creative field would admit to that, but who doesn’t need a break from reality now and again?
Fun fact: When I sit down to write, often I have NO IDEA what is going to come out. Sometimes I have the loosest of ideas…a friends-to-lovers story…or I might know the way I want a story to end…they all die… (ha!) but no clue how they get dead. Sometimes, it will just be a title that inspires me, like what happened with The ABC’s of Dee. Sometimes the title is the last thing to come, like Enigma. HUGE chunks of plot are nowhere to be seen when I sit down to write. Now, some writers can’t work like that. Some need to have it all mapped out before they type a single word and that is totally okay.
There is no one way to write. Run far away from the person who tells you otherwise.
I don’t even follow the same procedure for each book I write, some I write out longhand, some I dictate, some I use a word processor, some a word doc. One thing that does remain the same, even though it took me years to learn, was to trust my muse. Even if what was being whispered to me made NO sense to what I was just writing, I listen. If it scares me or makes me nervous to type these offerings from the muse, I listen harder. For the first draft anyway.
In the first draft, I remind myself, it’s all gold. Nothing is off the table. Cliched characters? Come on in! Clunky exposition? Have a seat. Convoluted plot? Welcome!
I invite them all to the keyboard with me because I know this the first draft. It’s meant to be shit. Draft two well, that’s where the hard work starts. Withering somewhere in that pile of poo are the bones of your story. In the dark corners, there is a character yearning to be seen, a thread of a plot that is woven within the chaos you created, the ending even you didn’t see coming. It’s MAGIC!
If you never followed the muse down the rabbit hole to play, however, you may be missing out. If, instead of taking the journey, you allowed your brain to harp on your Chapter 3 not being exactly right, or that plot hole you found is too big to jump over … if you didn’t just push through it, you’d never find the way to fix it later.
One of the hardest jobs as a writer, I’ve found, is allowing myself to trust the muse to provide us with the inspiration for the story, not the final telling of it. Ignoring the muse and the path laid out for us leaves the muse muscles weak, timid, and afraid the ideas will be rejected. If we fail to yield the creative voice, then we shouldn’t be surprised when we are rewarded with nothing more than a blinking cursor.