Feeding the Muse

Everyone who writes knows all about that cliche question, “Where do you get your ideas?” Everyone who writes knows that ideas don’t matter. It’s all about the execution of an idea. It’s all about how well the writer can pace a story, can bring a character to life, can make us care.

An idea is like a single seed. That seed has to be planted and watered. It has to receive sunlight and nutrients from the soil. Then, in about one hundred years, it will turn into a tree. But that tree is not your story. After growing and nurturing your tree for a century, you have to chop it down with just your bare hands and an ax, then split it into boards, then sand the boards, then build a house. But that house is not your story. You then have to paint and decorate the house and find some people to live in it. They will be reluctant. You have to coax them. You have to move in with them and and entertain them and make them delicious meals and then listen carefully as they speak. Then you write down everything they say and do, and that becomes your story.

The muse only comes when you feed her, spend time with her, and listen to her. She is elusive and she is easily bored. She will wander off if she doesn’t get enough attention. She will run away in fear if you act desperate or needy around her.

This is why writers are completely crazy. Some of them drink themselves to death. They are all terrible people. Everyone complains about them. But they give us books and stories and movies and plays and television shows and everything that helps us escape from our dreary lives. They spin gold and magic and mayhem and they create beautiful and fanciful worlds and characters we love and characters we love to hate. Writers tells us the truth about what it means to be human and to be deeply flawed in the midst of the poetry that is our lives.

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