Beware the Muse Killer!

I don’t think writers need to be reminded of our frail egos. The validation of a personal response on a rejection letter, getting an honorable mention in a contest, having our writing group say more positive than negative things are like life support to the tiny muse who so often goes Code Blue on our shoulders.

We know writing is hard. We know that rejection is part of the process. We know that if we think we just wrote the most brilliant scene since Katniss handed Peeta the berries, that tomorrow we might read the same scene and think it could fertilize Iowa. The thing is, no matter how many down moments we have, no many how much self-doubt and how many times we have to perform CPR on that poor little muse, we don’t stop writing. We keep believing in ourselves. And thank goodness we do!

When struggling with an earlier draft of Deadly Design, I sought guidance from a bestselling author I’d met at a few conferences. I asked if, for a fee, he’d be willing to edit the book and tell me what exactly it was missing.

Commas, evidently. I was missing commas, but the remark, one of the few, that really got me, was the scribbled note on page eight. “Your character is unlikable. Who cares what happens to him?”

If my ego had been any thinner, I might have looked down at my poor, pale muse and pulled the plug. I’d have let him die with what little dignity I had left. But I stopped myself. I knew my character. I knew my story and my abilities to write and why exactly should I listen to this man who took my check but didn’t even write in my genre?

I didn’t listen. I got another person, a wonderful, helpful person to give me guidance that led to doing what I wanted to do, what we all want to do  — to make the book better. This led to finding my agent, getting a deal, and the rest, as they say, is history.

We writers may have fragile egos, but we know how hard we work. We know our passions and how much we want to create the best work we can. Don’t ever let anyone tell you to pull the plug. Even if your manuscript isn’t quite there yet, that doesn’t mean it’s terminal! You know your abilities. You know your strengths, your weaknesses.

You know how badly you want it. Take the good advice you receive and use it. Ignore what you can’t use and, just like the old cliche says, have faith in yourself. Don’t let anyone kill your dreams or your muse.

Write with Passion!

Today I read the article by Oliver Sacks regarding his diagnosis of terminal cancer. I confess that I have not been a prolific reader of his work, but this article touched me greatly. I won’t begin to try to discuss the article but rather it’s impact.

My grandfather was 99 when he died. My husband’s grandmother was 105. I know a little boy who died at the age of ten, have a close friend who’s twenty-five with four malignant brain tumors, and currently follow the story of a six-year-old girl fighting leukemia. But this post isn’t about death, it’s about life and the fact that no matter how many years we get on this earth, it will never be enough.

When my youngest was a baby, I remember holding her and just breaking down one day. I knew why I was crying. It was because I was going back to work, and she was going to daycare. I was once again going to miss out on spending day after day watching my child grow. I’d worked hard to become a therapist, and I had clients, mostly abused children, waiting for me to come back and help them. I don’t regret my relationships with them or the way they touched my life, but I wanted to be with my baby — with my last baby.

When she was two, I got a phone call during a therapy session.  My toddler had decided to take the dog for a walk and the babysitter found her two blocks away. I realize now that perhaps it was an angel who’d opened the door and ushered her outside, because I gave my notice that day, and took a part time job as a college professor.

I can’t get back the time I lost with my older children, and I don’t regret the hours spent in college or doing my internship or working in the field of psychology, but none of us is getting younger. Each day that passes is gone, and we will never get those days back.

What I took away most for Mr. Sacks’ words is that I want to really live the rest of my life, however many years that may be. That doesn’t mean I can quit my job and travel the world. But it does mean that I can laugh louder. I can keep singing in my car even when a passing driver looks at me like I’m nuts. I can hug tighter, kiss longer, breathe deeper, and I can write.

I can write and if there is one lessen for us all to learn, it’s that whatever we do in life, we must do it with passion.

Live with passion. Consume words and food and music with passion and write with passion!

Savor every word, every character, every conflict and resolution and every tear and smile the words bring to us.

Write with passion!