Play Little Muse, Don’t be Afraid
by Debora Dale
Close to the end of February, I challenged myself to write a book in a month. The month of March to be precise. From cover to cover, I read No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. It made me feel empowered. Enthused. How hard could it be? You have only to lock away your inner editor and set your playful, creative muse free. Weeeeeee!
As writers we want our prose to sing, to paint a lovely portrait, to grip a reader’s very soul and bind them to our characters until our story comes to a gentle and happily-ever-after ending.
How can you do that without your inner editor? How can you possibly let that misspelled word go and not head right back there to repair it?! It’s just not possible!
Or so you think.
If that inner editor has been torturing your muse for months or years, do you think s/he’ll come out of hiding the moment you bind and gag your inner editor? If you think so, I say you’re completely mistaken. Well, perhaps not completely. Perhaps your muse will come out of hiding, but I doubt any bells or whistles will sound when s/he does. In fact, I’ve a feeling your muse will cautiously settle onto your shoulder, blink at the brightness of daylight, then sit quietly, doing nothing but listening.
For what? For doubt. For fear. From you. And after a while, just to be sure it’s safe, you will receive your first test. Little Muse will place an idea in your mind. A setting, a sound, a line of dialogue. And you’ll begin to type. It feels good. Ideas pile onto the page, they complete first one paragraph, then two… you pause to appreciate that wonderful spurt. But… what’s this? A squiggly red line under a word in the first sentence? A squiggly green line in the second… and fifth?
Instinctively, you right click them and discover your errors. Fragments and misspellings and comma usage, oh my! Must fix. Must polish. Must revise until perfect.
And while your inner editor has sneakily and joyfully reclaimed his throne, your muse has gone back into hiding – huddled deeper into the dark and lonely corner called ‘safe’. Safe from ridicule and revision. At both of those, your inner editor is the undisputed champion. In that corner, Little Muse is safe from seeing such fun and fanciful ideas get slashed and bludgeoned until they have surrendered and molded themselves into the form your inner editor wants… no… demands! Oh the horror! The pain. Little Muse cannot look.
Sad. Lonely. Feeling betrayed. Little Muse refuses to come out again. You urge, you plead. You read, research and rest. You walk, workout, eat chocolate and Cheetos. A glass of wine won’t coax Muse out. And coffee falls flat as well.
There is only one way to convince Muse it is truly safe to shine. And that is simply to believe it yourself.
True, this is no simple feat. In fact, it is harder than most anything else you have ever attempted. But there is a secret. One so obvious it is a wonder it isn’t realized more often. What you are writing, the creation you depend on your muse to display before your eyes, is just that – to be displayed before your eyes and your eyes only. It has to impress no one. No one, but you. That first draft, that fun and free nonsensical thing will have ‘moments’ you will cherish as is and ‘moments’ you will be happy to never share.
But that is the joy of writing the first draft. That is the shining moment for Muse. The chance to create without worry of flow, grammar or immediate logic. The chance to draw a charcoal portrait that – eventually – your inner editor can feel free to paint with any and all colors of the rainbow.
The first draft is not a finished product, but it is no less a brilliant work of art. It is the canvas, the brush, the perfect lighting and model. It is the joy of what is to come. It is the creativity from within that is too eager to be denied. It is the reason we dream. It is the very reason we write.
And what of the book I planned to write in a month? Well, I am convinced it will get done. Next month. Unfortunately, considering all the editing done here, my little muse remains unconvinced.