Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Finding my muse

Aline's post about chattering monkeys and accessing our subconscious connected with me on so many levels. I've always believed writing - the creative process of it - was part magic, and I never wanted to analyze it too closely for fear of losing that magic. I love that my mind goes to unexpected places, and that ideas pop randomly into it while I'm in the middle of a scene. It's one of the reasons I am primarily a "pantser" rather than a plotter. My creative juices only start to flow once I am immersed in the story, fully engaged and racing with it, and if I had an outline telling me what was supposed to come next, I would feel frustrated and straitjacketed. Knowing me, I would toss out the outline and go with the new idea.

That's not to say there's no discipline or no just plain slogging in my writing process. Brilliant ideas and leaps in the story do not come all the time, and in between those leaps, I still have to create coherent scenes, make the characters consistent and vivid, fashion the setting, etc. But that magic of the imagination is the centrepiece of the process.

I think everyone's access to magic is unique, which is one reason why I've never been a fan of "how to" books. A writer can learn a lot about creating character, dialogue, setting, vivid language, etc. - all the mechanics of our craft - from books and workshops, but I'm deeply suspicious of "experts" who try to tell you how to craft a novel. Seven steps to the perfect novel, etc. Useful guidelines if you're stuck or self-editing afterwards, but the first draft needs freedom from rules. At least my first drafts do.

In that vein, what helps that freedom? What encourages that magic? We all have our favourite writing places and our favourite rituals – those places that nurture inspiration and bring us a sense of transcendence. Aline alluded to the view of trees and hills that brought peace and connectedness, that sets the mind free to float. Nature does that for me too, but not just any nature. I think it's nature that hints at infinity, like the vista from the top of a mountain, or the shores of an ocean, or a glorious sky at sunset, or, strangely, a fire.

Nature transports, but not always to peace and tranquillity. Sometimes it is awe-inspiring, fierce, or wild, and all these feelings can find their way onto the page. So sometimes I choose my location depending on the emotion I need to write the scene.

Most of my favourite writing places are close to nature, either on a chaise long on my deck or on the dock overlooking the lake. Or if it's wintertime, curled up by the fire. There's something primal about fire and water that seems to stir the subconscious.

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