31 January 2012

The Muse is Back and Dishes Inspiration

Hello, everyone!
Sparrow here, Captain Val’s muse. Thank you for all the support you’ve given her lately and, new pirates, welcome aboard the Gobsmacked.
I’m once again filling in for Captain Val as she is a tad bit overwhelmed (taxes, polishing her novel, family, a short trip to Ashland, and, well, life). For those who remember my last post (read it here), she did apologize for calling me flighty. I’m not upset anymore. She needs me. And what’s a muse for?
            Of course, now I have to think of something muse-like to write about. As my role is to inspire and sprinkle some kind of writerly fairy dust, I decided that perhaps the lot of you could stand a little sparkle also. It’s January, it’s winter, the holidays are over, and don’t you feel a little … well, just a smidgen in need? of encouragement? of love? of inspiration?
            Good. Now that’s settled, let’s start with a bit of humor, sent by Kathryn Lang and found at Jason Love’s website.

            Isn’t it refreshing to see that writers can make fun of themselves—well most of them. I do understand your angst. We all have it. But if writing is like dealing with cancerous tumors, as one writer told Captain Val, stop writing and become a pilot or a nurse, anything that gives you joy. Life is short!
            Now, onward to inspiration.
I am not a writer, just a muse. So I turn to others, your kin, with their words of wisdom. Think of what I offer as your very own goody grab bag.

            Let’s start at the beginning. 2012. How did you approach the new year? Resolutions? A to-do list of all the things you want to fix or make or change? Now that we're in the year of the dragon, let's do something auspicious. Ellen Goodman has a the right idea.
"We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives ... not looking for flaws, but for potential."
Potential. I like that! Thank you Becky Green Aaronson for posting this.
Barbara Sullivan, Captain Val’s go to advisor on all things literary, uses this idea of potential when guiding her through a rewrite. I paraphrase here:
Don’t look at what isn’t working. Read through your novel. Look for and highlight all the passages, scenes, descriptions that knock you out. The ones that cheer you as in “I can’t believe I wrote that!” That’s the good stuff you want to tap. That gives you the potential, the scaffolding, for everything else.

            Captain Val’s crewmate, Chris Scofield, sent this quote from Josephine Demott Robinson, a circus performer in the first half of the 20th century. Her advice not to let failure deter you is sound and is the idea that you need to encourage your efforts. Like the inferred note of self-assessment too, not so bad, a little more practice and you'll get there, an applicable bit of inspiration for everyone. For writers, this can be what you need during each rewrite.
"Never mind if you fall far short of the thing you want to do, encourage your effort. If no one else will say it to you, say it to yourself. ‘Not so bad.’ It will make the next effort easier and better."
            Do you encourage your efforts? Do you give yourself credit for every growth jump you take? Captain Val doesn’t wait to publish before she rewards herself. She rewards the levels of efforts it takes to get there. If she finishes an application to a residency, she celebrates. If she finishes a first draft, she celebrates. Every rewrite, every move to the next professional level is cause for celebration according to her. (Yes, she does like to celebrate!)
           Another bit for those who love the crazy free-spirited Jack Kerouac. In 1958, he wrote a letter to Don Allen and included a 30-point list of “essentials” that he titled “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose.” You can read the entire list on Lists of Note, but here are numbers 14-17:

·  Like Proust be an old teahead of time
·  Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
·  The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
·  Write in recollection and amazement for yourself

 The ultimate inspiration for February and the Year of the Dragon? Kristen Lamb’s treasure chest blog Warrior Writers offers “Three Steps to Freedom: Grab Hold of your Brilliant Future.” What a title! And this is not just for writers. Everyone! Read this. Please! Here’s a taste:
This blog is dedicated to helping writers holistically. We are more than robots sitting at a desk pounding out word count. We have hopes, dreams, fears, bad habits and baggage. …
Three Lessons of Confession
Confess the Real Emotion—Name It and Claim It
One of the first things that offered me a new sense of empowerment was when I learned to confess the real emotion I was feeling.
Click here to read this blog: Kristen Lamb’s WarriorWriters

            Ah, there’s my call to duty. Seems as if the Captain needs me for a few hours while she polishes her novel.
My inner child at the moment
             BUT before I go, I want a word with the guy who wrote “Housebreaking Your Muse.” I beg your pardon! Muses are not DOGS! How demeaning! Muses everywhere demand an apology. I know you were trying to be cute, but muses are energy, light, intuition, not a bad pup that needs its nose rubbed in its pee. It’s the writer who needs training, focus, meditation … whatever! Muses are always there for our captains. So, please! No more!
            Again, gentle readers, thank you for letting me be here. Captain Val will be back next week.
            In the meantime, what inspires you? Can you see the potential instead of what doesn't work? In fact, tell us how you're going to change your outlook, how you'll approach your project from now on. Will you now approach your writing with a fresh new attitude? What will you do? What will be your reward for the first step you take?
            Oh, what fun! Captain Val would love to hear from you, and you don’t need to be a writer to do this. I think February should be The Potential Month, See the Possibilities Month. Now I’m excited!
            For now, until next time, much love,
 p.s. And don't forget to call on your Muse for help! (But please, don't use a dog whistle.)

Coming Soon!
Captain Val Throws a Creative Soiree with her Crew
Waiting for Wild and Why I'll Read Everything Cheryl Strayed Writes
How a Research Trip to Paris went Aground and What Saved It


Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

I'm inspired by that photo of Captain Val straddling the typewriter. (I know it's her, even if she Photoshopped it and wore a wig--the attitude is unmistakable!) At first glance, I thought that silk curtain in the background was smoke coming from the typewriter (even better).

I'm going to try to make my keyboard smoke (I think that will be easier than becoming a pilot or a nurse, at this late date.)

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

Everyone should have a smokin' typewriter! That's when you know the inspiration has kicked in. Or something else. :)

Brenda said... [Reply to comment]

If bogged down I turn to music. I often will write from a set of lyrics in a song until I feel that old muse snuggling up alongside me. I do think Captain Val has the situation well in hand. Good thing you have such a wonderful muse.

Patricia Sands said... [Reply to comment]

Your muse is serving you well, Val!
When I get bogged down I go for a walk or slip into iPhoto on my Mac to take a journey amongst my photos. Works every time!

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

I do too, Brenda. Sparrow has good taste in music, so she often puts on something to soothe and inspire. Yes, I'm fortunate to have such a wonderful rascal of a muse!

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

Now that's a great idea! A journey amongst photos. Hmmm. I'm heading out for a walk right now as it's a gorgeous day! Thanks for commenting.

Julia Whitmore said... [Reply to comment]

Sometimes when the bogger-man calls, I cry. Petulantly. Can't say it really helps. I sometimes open the piano and bang out Chopin's Nocturne in E Flat, which I've been working on for about 12 years and still have a ways to go on, clean a toilet or two to remind myself I'd rather be writing, and then read inspiring blogs like yours. Voila! Thank you Val.

Deborah Batterman said... [Reply to comment]

Hello, Captain Val. I bookmarked this post when it first went up, filled with that witchy feeling that it would give me just what I needed as I move from the finished novel to the submission (how odd that word sounds now) phase. And, indeed, the mix of delightful musings and graphics is a reminder that the critical self is there not to beat me up, but to nudge me along. It's no small irony that my eye goes right to the previous comment with its reference to an all-time favorite Chopin piece -- which only serves to reinforce the many ways in which inspiration indeed takes shape. Big smiles to the notion of 'housebreaking' my muse.

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

Would love to bang out Chopin's Nocturne in E Flat, if not for the inspiration, but for the pure joy of it. Yes, Julia, I can see you do that. I can also see you drop into downward dog or some pretzel yoga move, just to move the oxygen to those parts that need it! And thanks for the kudos, dear friend. That means the world to me.

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

Ahoy, Deborah! So glad you bookmarked and read the blog. I have such a good time with it. And CONGRATS! on finishing your novel!! Champagne raised to you. Yes, there has to be another word for "submission." Feels too much like groveling or bowing down. Must put my thinker on it. I remember my first agent used to call rejections "redirections," a kinder, gentler way of saying "send it elsewhere!" Fingers crossed and spit for your novel finding a caring, first rate home. Will keep up on SheWrites! Thanks for commenting.

Barbara Ehrentreu said... [Reply to comment]

I have remnants of my Muse sitting in my computer and one of them is still being readied to be sent out. I've stopped in the middle of checking it and now your post has made me realize I'm stalling the moment when it has to be submitted. I have a published novel and worry about sending out this second one. I never knew it was so hard to do your second novel. I have great respect for those authors who keep churning out books.:) Thanks for inspiring me to do it.