New Ideas and Controlling the Muse

16 Apr

For the longest time, I thought I wasn’t a proper writer. I don’t carry a pad a paper with me to make notes, I hate doing research and worldbuilding bores the crap out of me. I mean, what kind of writer is that? Not much of one I thought. New ideas come and go through my head a million a day, but I don’t write any of them down, which made me a not-real writer. I was only someone only played at being an artist.

Then in the past few years, something changed. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but I do know its cause. In 2010, I became professional and focused about my writing. I had one novel under my belt and a few short stories published. I was working on my second novel and after trying to write it to a strict outline with detailed worldbuilding notes I gave up and started writing it exactly how I felt like it (more on outlines in a later post). As I moved through the novel in this new way I didn’t make notes about ideas that occurred to me for later on. I acknowledged the idea and let it go, confident that in the moment that I needed it, the idea (or one better) would come.

And that was how I realized that yes, I am a proper writer. I stopped trying to make my muse be something that she’s not. She’s not a miser who hoards ideas worried that one won’t be there when she needs it. She’s more of a river spirit who dips into the creativity stream at any given moment and gives me something to work with.

The best part of this? My ability to produce fiction that’s original and interests not just me, but others as well, has increased exponentially. It’s the whole “it you love someone, set them free” thing. And in return my muse does favors for me, responding to specific requests with usable and intriguing ideas.

For example, I saw a call for submissions for an anthology about angels and demons. I’ve never had much interest in writing about either, but I faced a Saturday without much to do, so I asked my muse to dip into the flow and pull me out something about angels, demons, or both. And within moments I had an idea of a guardian angel who wasn’t particularly thrilled with her job of saving people from the consequences of their actions.

Plus I no longer drown in new ideas, which only serve to distract me from the project at hand. Now, when the river overflows and floods my brain with ideas, I say “ooh, cool” and let them pass without trying to net them. The idea will be there when I need it. Or maybe a better one will be. Whatever. It’s all good.

So, that’s me. How about you? How do you cope with the flood of new ideas?


Posted by on April 16, 2011 in AtoZ Challenge, General Babblery


6 responses to “New Ideas and Controlling the Muse

  1. Laura Bambrey

    April 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    What an interesting take on things – I get so stuck for new ideas sometimes, that when they do come flooding through, I try to net every single one of them, become bewildered with my haul and stop. Grind. to. a. halt.

    I’m going to give your way a go – thanks for the inspiration,

    • Alex

      April 29, 2011 at 8:54 am

      @Laura: Good luck and I hope the trial works for you. You might also try a midway point which is to keep a notebook or computer file where you can jot down ideas as they come then move back to whatever else you’re working on.

  2. Patricia Royal

    April 16, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Usually when I get a new idea I jump on it. The one time I didn’t and I let it slip in hopes of working on it after I finished a story it refused to cooperate. Still does. I think my muse is sadistic.

    • Alex

      April 29, 2011 at 8:56 am

      @Patricia: Maybe the way that works best for you is to work in an assembly line way moving a whole bunch of ideas forward at different points… Might make your Muse a little less sadistic. 😉

  3. Erin M. Hartshorn

    April 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I’m never stuck for new ideas, but my attitude is almost the opposite of yours — I get my best new ideas when I’m busiest. I don’t keep track of every new idea that I get, but I take on enough of them that I know my muse doesn’t feel she’s being ignored and go sulk. 😉

    I do get distracted easily, it’s true, but I meet my deadlines, too — which is my measuring stick for whether I’ve taken on too much.

    • Alex

      April 29, 2011 at 8:56 am

      @Erin: Meeting deadlines is the best measuring stick, isn’t it? Whatever works to get to that point.


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