I have been reading and re-reading every thing I can get my hands on about my condition. So far, it is to no avail.
There are several books in what would be considered the Self-Help category. Though they offer good advice and very, very helpful tips, they cannot seem to help me with my issue. Namely, my uncontrollable, intractable and just plain stubborn, Muse. Actually, I am not even sure if that’s right.
I have spent several months trying to tame this beast which seems to come and go as it pleases. It is rather a feeling anyway. A feeling that something is right and it builds up suspense and anticipation as to how a story will reveal itself. Now when writing an article such as this current thing, I don’t feel anything like that. Everything seems natural and all I have to do is get the words out as fast as I think them. Not counting misnakes (mistakes), of course.
Now one may think that I am just whining. This may be. But it is an extremely annoying thing. I have read on authors like William Wallace Cook who would lock themselves away with nothing more than writing instruments and cigarettes for days and emerge with several stories or even a novel or two. Well, my so-called Muse doesn’t seem to work that way. In fact, it’s downright ornery.
Whenever I get a story idea I dictate a short synopsis into the voice recorder. Then I spend the next several hours or days thinking about it. Now sometimes the idea comes from a dream. Sometimes it comes from hearing or seeing something. At any rate, it’s like fruit: It has to ripen before the story can dictate itself through my mind onto the screen via the human interface of the keyboard.
Everything has to be just right. So it takes time to get ready. The music app is set up, Adobe Acrobat displays grammar rules on one screen, Scrivener or MSWord is on the main screen, no more than a page and a third wide. Even before this is done, anxiety and anticipation have to build. In the beginning, anticipation gets stronger and then the setup begins. I click on a random song and it begins to play. After a false start or two, I hit the flow. Rather, it seems to find me.
Eventually, usually within three to four hours after anywhere from 3 to 10 pages, the anticipation starts to wane and the anxiety soon takes over. Now I can usually end the story at the same time the anxiety reaches a crescendo. However, there are times when I cannot.
Let me tell you, it is the most nervewracking thing that I can imagine. Not even the worry over a knowingly bounced check can compare. I guess that’s why I’ll never rob a bank. But really, it actually gets physical.
Periodically, when the feeling becomes overwhelming, my hands tense and I can’t seem to type the words that come to mind. But I cannot stop. For if I stop, then I lose it all. And it never comes back. My hard drive is littered with the detritus of unfinished prose. Stories that were conceived only to die in the throes of birth.
Sounds violent doesn’t it? Well, in a way it is. My pulse quickens as I near the end of the story. Sure, at the climax, the constant urge to complete the story is strong, but the downslide or epilogue actually produces the strongest feeling. By this time, I have to either force myself to finish or to get up and walk around for a bit. If I get up, the epilogue is shot and I have to spend the next couple of days trying to figure out what it was that it was supposed to be. It’s a tough way to do anything. I think I’d rather work in the sewers.
Every writer of a guide to writing that I have come across says that I have to care for and feed my Muse. Well, I expect that what I have is not a Muse but a Demon. A lesser Demon by what I can infer, but a Demon nevertheless. Sometimes it taunts me in dreams. Gives me a premise, even a whole story from start to finish that I only have to put down into words. And those words come readily. That is, until they run out.
More often than not, they run out after I do. It’s driving a car that overheats. The tank is full, but I can only go about twenty miles at a time before the engine overheats and has to quit. That’s how it feels. The whole time the story is dictating itself through me, I am aware of the heat (resistance) building up within me. At a critical moment, if I am not done or nearly so, I will lose this gift and cannot recover it. So I just wait and move onto the next idea once it presents itself to me and ripens.
That’s why my Muse is no Muse. It is a most vile and controlling Beast, wreaking havoc on my very being. The chamber of torture it has prepared for me are the artifices of the electronic age: The flat screen monitor, computer keyboard and the DJ app!