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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Writer's Life: Kickstarting the Muse

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy..." so goes the old adage -  and I think that all writing and no play makes Jill a dull writer.

I am reasonably blessed as a writer as I am yet to meet real "publisher deadlines". I have watched so many friends flushed with the euphoria of selling that first book that they spent years writing and polishing and rewriting and repolishing, suddenly going into panic mode when they realise book #2 has to be finished, polished and on the editor's desk in only months. 

I  have no idea how I would cope with that sort of pressure. My muse is a skittish miss at the best of times, I think she would just take to the gin bottle and huddle in a drunken stupor under my desk, where she seems to have spent the better part of this year...

What my muse should be doing...

What my muse is really doing...

Since taking the decision to abandon the book that had been dragging at my ankles for the last twelve months, the muse climbed out from under the desk, took a cold shower and several cups of coffee, did her makeup and is even now, sitting on my shoulder telling me to hurry up and finish this blog because we have to get back to the work in progress.

I have a which is entirely incompatible with writing...or at least writing the way I have been doing it.  I love patchwork and quilting (and yes, I am also a Crazy Cat Lady, so I fit all the stereotypes). The hobby had become entirely suborned to writing.  "MUST...FINISH...THIS...BOOK..." became a mantra I got very tired of so a couple of weeks ago, I took advantage of DH (DARLING HUSBAND) being away for a weekend, hauled all my sewing stuff down to the dining room, covered the house in pieces of material and just worked on my "UFOs" (Unfinished objects), of which there are many...

What I discovered amidst the piles of coloured fabric, was by using my hands and my brain in another creative manner, I had time to think about my current work in progress. As I calculated and measured and matched fabrics, my muse lounged on the sofa and took notes. On Monday morning when I went back to the WIP, I had goals, motivation and conflict worked out for the protagonists and the entire thrust of the story had changed.

I have decided to devote a weekend a month to my hobby. No writing,  just reducing large pieces of material to small pieces of material and sewing them back together again (my husband's observation about patchwork!). 

I am not suggesting that every writer should take up patchwork and quilting (I also do cross stitch). It may be knitting, scrap booking, painting, jewellery making... I have also found gardening has a similar effect in freeing my mind just to range through the work in progress while I tug at weeds.  I think it is that right brain/left brain thing and the connection with using your hands that is hard wired into our DNA. Perhaps someone knows of an interesting article on the subject?

Do you have an alternative creative way of kickstarting the muse...?


  1. Hi Alison
    Very interesting post - as you know with all the 'mount doom' things recently, I think you and I are in a parallel universe right now.
    Something that works for me is walking... I go for a walk and ideas spring forth. Problem is, I never have anything to write them down.
    I think your left brain/ right brain idea is probably close to the mark.
    Good luck with that pesky muse.
    Lily M

  2. Walking is a wonderful time to think, Lily. I am blessed with living by water on a peninsula. I have been known to walk and dictate into my mobile telephone!
    Hope the reinvigorated muse in your parallel universe is unlocking wonderful story ideas at the moment :-)

  3. Your cat quilt is just lovely!
    I often take time out from writing to patchwork and sew clothes and, like you, I find it helps with my writing. My almost daily walks are good times for some mental plotting too!
    I'm looking forward to reading your new project.

  4. Hi JT! Sadly my making clothes days are well and truly over. I used to make everything! I am recycling my very first quilt (an English patchwork made of hexagons of any fabric I could lay my hands on) which I started at 13. As I was ironing the tiny little seams flat the other day, I could remember every garment I had made just by looking at the tiny scraps of fabric...including my school uniform!
    Hoping to have something new bookwise out by Christmas :-)