Thursday, May 10, 2007

Angst and The Muse

by Joyce Tremel

No matter how many blogs I read, or how many authors I talk to, we all suffer from the same thing—angst. According to, angst is defined as “a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish.”

To our way of thinking, our words are never good enough. That paragraph we just wrote? Pure trash. The dialogue that looked so right only minutes ago? Stilted. The chapter we finished yesterday? Better write it over. It never ends.

I’ve always been somewhat of a perfectionist at heart. I’d anguish over each and every word, sometimes taking days to write one scene. My muse finally rebelled.

“At the rate you’re going, this book will be done, oh, maybe 2050,” Muse told me.

“What do you know,” I said. “Maybe if you’d show up a little more often, I’d be finished by now.”

Muse sniffed. “I’ve been here all along. If you don’t appreciate me, maybe I’ll just leave--”

“Wait! I’ll do anything you want, just don’t leave me here alone.”

She agreed to stay, provided I follow certain conditions. The first of which was to WRITE EVERY SINGLE DAY—NO EXCEPTIONS. Do you know how hard that is? I don’t know about all of you, but real life tries to interfere with that on a daily basis. What I’ve been doing lately is leaving my laptop booted up with my book open. Even if I’m busy, I can take a break for five minutes and write a paragraph or two.

Her second condition was to QUIT REWRITING AND FINISH THE DAMN BOOK. That’s another tough one. I love rewriting. Love it, love it, love it. To me, that’s the fun part of writing. Taking the raw prose and tweaking it until it’s just right. Lately, I’ve only been allowing myself to go back ONE page before I write something new. And believe it or not, it’s working.

Muse’s third condition wasn’t quite as hard to swallow as I’d been thinking about it for awhile anyway. STOP PLAYING IT SAFE. She was definitely right about that one. So, I killed off an important character (see my blog). Just doing this one little thing (okay, maybe not so little) gave the story so much more pizzazz. I’m so thrilled to write now that (gasp!) the laundry is piling up and I have dust on my furniture. And the world has not come to an end because of it. On the contrary, I have more energy and feel more excited about everything than I have for a long time. No more angst for me.

Is anyone else listening to their muse? What has she told you lately?


jrenee stuart said...

Last fall, I participated in a Native American Spirit Guide ceremony. The details are a little foggy (there was some Seriously good hooch that weekend), but Coyote became my spirit guide. For a while, last winter, I was having some doubts about my writing. The only thing I was sure of was how bad I was. I kinda sunk into that "who-the-hell-am-I-trying-to-kid" phase. Then the coyotes showed up. I'd hear them first - that distinctive "yip yip yow", then I'd see one. I'd shine my flashlight at the edge of the yard, and there he was, eyes glowing yellow, just watching.I figured he was trying to tell me something (other than, "hey - feed me, or I'll eat your cat"). I started writing again, and they left.
Now, whenever I whine about how much I suck, or don't have enough time etc... Muse just says, in her firmest bitch/muse voice, "Don't Make me bring back the coyotes."

Cathy said...

Great post, Joyce. Very practical for those of us with the angst. Thanks for sharing.

Tory said...

My muse says, "Quit your day job!" Then my cats back her up, "Yeah, mom, why do you have to WORK?"

I tell them, "Thanks for sharing," and then go to the office.

Some things are just aren't worth arguing about with your muse! Or your cats, come to think of it.

Anonymous said...