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Wed, Jul. 21st, 2004, 11:42 am

Hullo from your friendly neighborhood mod!

This community's been dead for a while, and today I woke up with the mind to try and set it back in motion. Haven't done that great a job of it since slayerlovex left it in my care, and I aim to change that. Or at least put forth an effort.

So! Today I revamped the Community Info and rules. Nothing too new, just reworded some things, and added a new rule or two, which no one here has broken (at least not lately), but I feel should be stated for any newcomers anyway.

Also, I've updated the journal layout. Hopefully we can get a custom layout up as soon as LJ decides to like us, but for now it looks okay. Another thing that's been added is a links list on the layout, including a link to my personal favorite image source, GettyImages.com, and to a writing prompts site, WakeUpWriting.com. If any of you have any ideas as to what else we might add to that list, please leave a comment and a link.

And, in conclusion, I offer up a bit of my own original fiction, a sort of "writing guide" told from the point of view of a thirty-something neurotic author. Hopefully at least mildly humorous.

Living With a Neurotic Muse: the Confessions of an Even More Neurotic Author

Part 1: Introducing Bob and the Registry

Here’s the thing about writers: we’re insistent, masochistic, and patient. Only without the patient part. We tend to be eccentric and get easily frustrated. We also tend to spend hours wailing about how horrible our work is, how our muses won’t cooperate, and then once our book or story is done, rave about how we can’t wait to start the next one. It’s been said that writing is like childbirth: if you ever remember how awful it is, you’d never do it more than once.

That all goes back to the insistent and masochistic part of my opening sentence. We’re easily frustrated, but we don’t give up easily. We hate what we do, but at the same time, we love it dearly. And patience… perhaps that’s best left to the chemists and golfers of the world.

Now. Let’s go deeper. Every writer has a muse, whether they realize it or not. Some muses are nice and easy to work with. Others are mean-spirited, sadistic, and lazy. Muses come in all shapes and sizes, and they have all sorts of traits and names. I once knew a girl with a muse named Melpomene, after the Greek muse of tragedy. She claimed that “Melly” hated her and wanted a friend of hers dead. Her closest friend, on the other hand, was given a nice muse: Ducky from The Land Before Time.

My muse is an in-between muse. He is a sex-crazed magic-eight ball with a disposition not unlike Josef Stalin (completely batty), an incredibly irritating Bronx accent (think Jennifer Lopez à la “Jenny from the Block”), table manners like the beast from Beauty and the Beast (pre-Belle), and the sexual appetite of a rap star. How he satisfies it I really do not want to know. Oh, and his name is Bob. However, he does occasionally work, and when he does, he does so rather well. Even if he does try to work in as much profanity as possible. I go back and edit it out after he goes to sleep.

I would like to make it clear that I am not in any way responsible for Bob’s behavior or anything having to do with him. He’s like an old dog that can’t learn new tricks and bites: if you try to improve his attitude, he’ll verbally harass you for a while then go into a three-week dormant phase during which creativity is at an absolute low and you have a deadline.

I blame the Muse Registry. They shouldn’t employ such things in the first place, but they do. They also refuse to give me another muse, pointing out writers who have suffered with similar muses and luck: Edgar Allen Poe, James Joyce, et cetera. They refuse to listen to complaints about how these authors could write, but no one read them so they wound up drinking themselves to death.

They also tend to have obscure rules, such as:

1. A muse may not be replaced until it has been missing at least three months, and its author is certain it is gone forever. If this occurs, a temporary muse will be supplied to the author until the Registry may perform a search for the lost muse. If after two weeks the muse is not recovered, a new, permanent muse will be supplied.
2. Muses are immortal. Ha!
3. No requests for muses are accepted. You get what you pay for.

In writing said rules, they have ignored some very important details:

1. Mean muses tend to hate their authors. They go on long vacations and always come back just before the three month mark so that the author can not complain to the registry, then go off again.
2. As Dave Barry once wrote, “Reporters have poor do-it-yourself skills.” Otherwise, there would have been a bomb wired to the Registry’s security vault, blowing up all their records long, long ago. We don’t need to kill the muse, we just need to get rid of their files so they have to give us a new one.
3. We don’t pay for our muses. Who would?

Part 2: Why?

If you’ve never written just for pleasure before, they you’re probably wondering: Why the flipping hell would anyone put themselves through this?

The answer is simple. Writing helps provide an escape. It lets us rant out pent-up anger and frustrations, though many times it creates even more. It also keeps us from going out, getting sloshed, and then getting into bar fights to get rid of said anger. Though, truth be told, it’s sometimes useless.

The big reason is that we just like it. Well, we like it when our muses decide to be nice. We like it when we get published and get royalties and if we make it big, we don’t have to keep our teaching positions and can finally tell the head of the English department what we really think of him and can phone up all the people who told us we’d never amount to anything and tell them to go jump in a lake because we’re on our way to the top of the New York Best Sellers list and they’re working flipping meat-like patties at McDonald’s for two cents above minimum wage.

Yeah, that part we enjoy. The actual writing-it-and-getting-rejected-from-twenty-six-publishers-first-and-spending-seven-years-after-college-eating-nothing-but-Ramen-noodles-because-we’re-dirt-poor part we’re not too fond of.

Part 3: Helping Bob Along

There are certain things will bring Bob out into the open and inspire him to help me write. The right music is a definite must. Some muses enjoy Classical. Others like bagpipes or heavy metal. Bob likes rap and hip-hop, which really doesn’t agree with me. I rarely use music as a tool to get Bob in the mood for creativity.

Another thing is location. Some writers go out to the mountains or to the beach. Some go on a road trip and stay in cheap motels at night, trying to get the words out. Some go to Starbucks or even stay home. I go to a computer lab in the college library where I work. It houses nothing but Macintoshes, which I hate. Bob, on the other hand, loves them. He says they’re prettier than Windows computers. They are, generally, but they’re also slower and more annoying.

I think the real reason Bob likes the lab is because I can usually get a few DVDs to play on the computer while I work, and it tends to be Sex and the City or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Bob has a bit of a thing for Kim Cattrall and Alyson Hannigan. I don’t particularly mind, because I like John Corbett (though he doesn’t show up until season three of City, humph) and James Marsters is too good looking to be legal.

Timing and weather are also key factors. Some people write well early in the morning while others do best late at night. I’m more of a night owl myself, which Bob doesn’t take too well. His bedtime is at eight; the Registry demands that their muses get at least ten hours of sleep a night. Apparently the majority of muses don’t spend every other second of their day napping.

Rainy days are always good for writing, which is why I suppose so many classic authors came out of Western Europe. If I had the money, I’d move to Paris or London. There’s something about the rain that helps words flow. Maybe the water? Water flowing, words flowing… okay, too poetic. Back on topic.

Company is also key. A pet may help or hurt. A phone call can inspire or aggravate (phone calls where someone wants to pay you money for your most recent work or take you out to dinner then shag you senseless can be big inspirations).

Part 4: Keeping Inspiration in a Plastic Bubble

The thing about inspiration is this: you can’t let it run away. Always have a notepad or something in your pocket or purse just in case. It strikes in the most unlikely places. I was skiing once – actually, scratch that, I was being dragged down the bunny slope on my rear by a former boyfriend once – when I ran into a tree and broke my ankle. On the way up the mountain being dragged in a bright orange sled by ski patrol, I got hit with the plot of a short story that became my first published work, a two-thousand thirty-four word fictional piece that eventually made its way into New Yorker magazine.

It could have been a novel if I hadn’t lost some of the ideas thanks to being delirious (I hit my head, nearly decapitated myself with my skis) and not having anything to write on before I could forget them. I blearily remember asking the ski patrol officer if he had in his possession paper and a writing instrument, to which he replied. “Lady, I got ten bucks that says you ain’t gonna walk for three weeks. Lie down.”

On another occasion, I was out to dinner on a blind date my friends had insisted I attend. In the midst of the dessert of tiramisu and a rather spirited conversation about the United States’ occupation of Iraq with a nice, good-looking, would-be boyfriend, I got a sudden blast of inspiration, which resulted my shouting, “Of course! Pigeons!” and started rummaging in my purse for a scrap of paper and a pencil.

My companion decided I was mentally unstable when I demanded of him his unused napkin and a pen. He proceeded to finish his desert, pay the bill, and run every red light getting me home and then out of my neighborhood all in seven minutes flat. He never called, and I lost my train of thought before I could start my laptop, prod Bob awake, and make him sit down to work.

The point here should be obvious: ideas come at all times, and often at the most awkward moments. When you don’t catch them in time, they’ll fly away faster than a computer virus can eat its way through your hard drive and crash your entire system. So, basically, keep that from happening. Do yourself a favor.

Part 5: Learn What You’re Good At

Big, important rule: don’t be afraid to share your work with others. An honest opinion is very important. It’ll be the one that tells you if you should write action or romance, humor or horror, novels or shorts. Let’s face it, there are few people out there who aren’t afraid of what others will think. They write what they write, but they’re also positive their own work is utter crap.

There are three main reasons people have pseudonyms, you know:

1. They hate their own names.
2. They hate the thought of anyone finding out they wrote what they wrote.
3. They’re part of the witness protection program.

Now, I as a person write angst-y, dark pieces most easily. I dislike romance, being a proud cynic and a single woman. Bob, on the other hand, is constantly spouting these declarations of eternal devotion and infatuation as dialogue in my stories when two characters should be in the midst of a bloody feud, not foreplay. Bob’s also fond of humor, which I am absolutely no good at. Everything of mine sounds like it came out of a bad, bad evening of Saturday Night Live. And my “witty” scenes tend to sound right out of the worst of Boston Public as opposed to a recap on Television Without Pity.

Bob is a fun-loving magic-eight ball (albeit certain the government is out to get him because of the letter he once made a previous author write to Donald Rumsfeld, whom he called “Rummy,” telling him he was the embodiment of Dr. Strangelove), and he’s also quite sarcastic by nature. He tends to come up with good comebacks to my incredibly lame comments. Said comments tend to sound like “Well, you haven’t got a head! So there!”

Part 6: Choosing Your Menu

With many people, big writing projects can call for a sort of reverse-diet. No health food whatsoever is permitted, muses don’t like it. A typical good, writing menu includes:

1. Lots of junk food
2. Coffee
3. Ice cream
4. Coffee
5. Chinese take-out
6. Indian take-out
7. A pizza delivery
8. Coffee

Emphasis on the coffee. Caffeine is a god. Decaf must be avoided at all costs, for it is the anti-muse.

Back in school, I was writing a midterm paper at the very last possible moment when my muse at the time (an Irish white-board eraser named Harry) decided he was thirsty and refused to write until I got us both alcohol.

There was, of course, a line at ABC and by the time I got back to my dorm it was already eight and Harry was asleep beside his girlfriend, the blue dry erase marker, with their pet, Floppy (an old 3.5 disk of mine), curled up at their feet.

Part 7: Visual Media

As I mentioned earlier, Bob likes Sex and the City and Buffy. The television shows playing before and during a writing project are important, and even more so are the movies and news programs (mostly because they’re longer).

The news generally always enthuses the same things: either very twisted humor or (more often) depressing under-three-hundred works. The news is always just so gloomy most of the time. It seems it would kill the press to report something cheerful every so often. Or maybe they’re all just morbid, disturbed people who like reporting death, destruction, and doom. Doom, doom, doom! (Bob likes that word, but only sometimes. It makes him think of Rummy and can scare him.)

The papers can be a source of inspiration, particularly local papers. Smaller stories can make for the best plots. It helps that few people have ever heard them, and they sell better, provided you know what you’re doing when you write them.

Con crit is welcome, though I don't object to compliments.


Candy M.