A Visit From the Muse

I do not know what to write, but obviously something needs to come out. The Muse comes and whispers in the ear; a word, a sentence, maybe a whole scene laid out like watching a movie. But nothing comes free, work is still required. Ideas must be fleshed out and completed, characters built and given a reason to exist and a world to exist in. Discipline is the most important thing for a writer to possess. It is not enough to have flashes of brilliance, an elegantly crafted scene with a kick ass protagonist. The Muse has done her part; now what? Short story or novel, there is plenty more to be done. You must sit down and write, putting words on paper. Hopefully these words relate to your story but sometimes the act of writing is enough. Get it finished then edit out the description of the hot chick in line at McDonalds. Finish the piece; fragments don’t get published until one is a famous dead author.
Maybe someday I will follow my own advice. Lord knows I don’t need to start yet another story, to have another fragment residing in a notebook. Discipline, eh? Sit down and write? Seems there is always an excuse but in the end that is all they are. If one has time to prowl the internet or finish another quest in a videogame, it is hard to say one has no time to write. Discipline. What do you want? To be a scribbler of pieces that stay locked away? Or to be an author, to get paid to write words that people pay to read?
No, I do not need to start again, have a couple thousand words that remains unfinished. But ideas are everywhere. It is carrying these ideas to their finish that has been my problem. There’s that word discipline again. Today’s idea comes courtesy of a biography of Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster for Queen Elizabeth 1. It is toying around the edges of my consciousness, begging for birth, a meeting in an Elizabethan-esque tavern, a man in sombre clothing contrasting with the bright hues of the others.
Who is this dour man? Perhaps that is why I write, to answer the questions that arise from these little snippets played out by the Muse. Lets see where this goes. But is this enough? It runs on for a while, peters out, oh I don’t know where this is going, and another idea takes it place. Perhaps it is time for some sort of outlining, something to help focus when the initial fervour wears away and I am left asking “What now?” If not a complete plot outline, perhaps enough of a background to show where these people come from, why they do what they do.
I say Elizabethan-esque because usually I stay away from the constraints of a real place and time. I am a huge fan of Robert E. Howard and his microcosm of a world. What ever culture that could be mined for good material is found living in Hyberboria. And they all mesh together perfectly without jarring. Howard is an author I look up to, both for good reading and as an example of an outstanding craftsman who has much to teach. Even when writing for a paycheck, it is still amazing work. Louis L’amour is another who could take formula writing and sell it to millions. And in the end, isn’t that what it all comes down to? Despite our desire for acknowledgement, I would trade a glowing review for L’amour’s sales. Writers may want their brilliance recognized, that crafty literary allusion chuckled over, but we also want to be read, and to eat. And I’d wager L’amour has eaten a lot better than many an ivory tower darling.
So, if I kick myself in the ass, we may find out about that dockside tavern meeting (I hear there’s a chute in the backroom and a blackjack under the bar). Its on paper so the idea is claimed, is mine, and won’t be going anywhere. If I kick myself properly, some other things will be finished first. It may get foggy down there but I am sure we can find that tavern again. And if Neil Gaiman can tell truth as good as he can fiction, perhaps we can reach the castle of Morpheus and find a copy of “The Tavern Meeting” in Lucien’s library. At least one of us should get to find out what happens in that tavern.

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