Monday, 27 May 2013

How I killed my muse

Something horrible happened to me recently. Really, truly horrible... I killed my muse. More like murdered her actually. At least that's what I think you call it when you callously work something to death, deprive it of all nourishment until it keels over and dies...

Honestly, this is true. It's what I did.  Let me take you back a month or so, to when I had my first writing deadline. I needed to have something done in a really short time. So I took out my muse and told her to give me all she had. She did. I wrote forty-thousand words (good words) in two weeks. It was dirty though, so I shoved my overworked muse back into my pocket and got to revising. I revised, edited, recieved critique, revised again, got more get the picture.

I have to admit, I did suspect my muse was a little hungry. After all I deprived her of all the things she likes to eat—I abstained from almost all television, music, even reading. In a month I managed to only successfully read two books. Two steamy contemporary romances. Two fleeting gorge fests of candy to my starving muse, but nowhere near enough to sustain her.

But still I pushed her. You know that rule 'writers must write every day'? Yeah that one, so even though she was fatigued I set her to a new concept. She was so scatterbrained she couldn't focus, flitting from one idea to another, a new concept every day and unable to commit to any. That should have been a warning sign, should have signalled me to give her a little TLC. Instead I made her do more, write my blog posts, write guest posts for others, I even started an editing course and made her work harder on assignments. Then it happened, I killed her.

I sat down one night after the kids were in bed, even though I was exhausted and just wanted to go to sleep early, and tried to crack my whip over the battered back of my broken muse. But she didn't stir. I stared at the blank screen in panic. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I couldn't think of a single word. Not one. No words, no pictures, no story images tumbling through my mind. Nothing, just complete and utter blankness. But it was okay, obviously my muse had just fallen asleep. The next day it would be better for sure.

The next day wasn't better. Or the next. All my words were gone. I couldn't deny it anymore, my muse was dead. And that's when I really panicked. This was more than the writer's block I had imagined.  It wasn't getting stuck on a storyline. It wasn't something I could brainstorm my way out of, and it wasn't something going for a walk could fix. It was the death of my creativity. It was the absence of that place inside me that imagines. I started to question if I would ever be able to write again, if I have ever really been cut out for it, if I had ever really had it at all.

Then my kids got sick, I got sick. All I wanted to do was curl up with a good book, watch a good show, and not do anything. So that's what I did. I gave myself nine days (Saturday to the following Sunday) to recover. I broke rules, all kinds of rules. That rule that you must write every day, that rule that you must maintain your blog X many days per week. I only monitored my close Twitter friends and didn't obsess over my feed, I abandoned Facebook altogether.

I read, and read. Not just romance but other things I also love, Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary fantasy. I watched movies, like actually went and borrowed things I wanted to see. I watched whole seasons of shows like Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time, True blood, all those juicy, creative, magical shows. A few times I stayed up almost all night because I wanted to see one more episode, and then just one more. I even joined Pintrest—and oh the ART! Pictures of magical things, unbelievable places, faces to inspire whole new characters, and images to inspire new stories.

I still did the things I had to. I still worked on my course homework. I still worked on things for my CP's. But I didn't write. I just gave myself all the things my muse had wanted but I had withheld from her. And guess what? It turns out muses have magical powers of regeneration. She came back to life.

By the second-last night of my writing fast I was waking up with dreams of my WIP. Fresh ideas I couldn't wait to paint into my story.  On the last day the hour long car trip to my grandparents was filled with scenes, dialogue, and new plot twists, bursting to get free.  The last night I couldn't sleep at all, my mind was racing with too much. So when I woke on my first day of freedom, writing was not a chore. I was so excited, and once again it all flowed effortlessly.

But now I have learned the most important thing I ever have as a writer. My muse is precious and should be cherished. I still need her to work, and I will often have to push her hard. But never again will I deny her rest when she demands it or forget to feed her. I'll make sure she gets days off and I'll make sure she gets regular big, delicious meals. 

Never again will I follow rules that stifle my creativity because that's what people say you 'must' do. Writing and writing frequently is important, and that writing muscle needs its exercise, but everything balanced is better. Writing four days a week instead of six when you're run down is not going to prevent you from ever being published; it might just ensure that you are.   


  1. Great post, Amber. But look, I'm putting you on GIF restrictions. It's for your own good. No, don't question me. Just accept it and move on with your life. xx

  2. Lol I forgot to mention I found tumblr!!!! ;)

  3. Excellent post and something I think we all need to remember.

  4. Yup!! Even those lovely Muses must have nutrition, regular feeding and rest! Well done!