Mechanical

My Muse

My Muse is back. Unfortunately, she's not a very good one. I imagine her sitting on a barstool with too much makeup, chipped nail polish and an unlit cigarette dangling from her lips. She bats asterisks of mascara at me and if I light her cigarette she'll push a pen in my hand. Unfortunately, it seems she's only good for one-night stands or at best a weekend fling. Period.

And what would I write? Maybe I'd pen "Emma", but I'd make her a prostitute and ruin the story. Or "Romeo and Julian", the Capulets and Montagues sitting around, fast friends, with wife-beaters crawling up their beer-engorged guts and muttering that them faggots ain't natural.

My Muse would be aghast, her chins quivering in disgust.

And the fruit of my labor? Tomorrow I send off my article "Logic Programming in Perl." It's to be published in the next issue of The Perl Review. I love what I do for a living, but my muse keeps sneaking back and pinching my bottom for another flirtation with writing fiction.

I fear my long-standing fling with my Muse has conditioned me to accept what I do have rather than what I could have. I mock her, but she really knows how to show me a good time if I only let my guard down. She's an escritorial fuck buddy I'm unwilling to introduce to my friends.

I think of writing as a dream. I also think of it as a supreme act of narcissism. Of vanity. Who am I to think that others will want to read what I write? And yet here I am, perversely, writing. Briefly. I've stolen a quickie from my Muse. No wonder she doesn't stay long. Why should she satisfy me if I don't satisfy her?

Sometimes we go for long walks together and we plot our novel. How is this different from daydreaming? Writing is almost respectable, but until I set pen to paper or fingers to keys, even toying with respectability eludes me.

I'm a daydreamer who has succeeded by finding himself reasonably competent in a field he enjoys. And it's not even that I'm the best in my field. I've worked hard to learn more, but harder to market myself. I get hired not because I am an astonishingly good programmer. I get hired because I am Ovid. Because my ability to write, though not particularly noteworthy, is nonetheless more interesting than a few others in my field and people remember me.

I am ultimately known for my writing, not my technical ability. Despite this I rely on the latter and not the former. I know if I really pay attention to my Muse, perhaps even trouble to learn her name, she'll reward me. She'll strip off her makeup, her fickleness, and open herself to me. Perhaps I'd be poorer and happier and writing about missing the technical challenge of programming, but at least I would know.

Until then, my writing will will reflect my muse. Sickly sweet perfume and trying too hard to please. Unfortunately, my writing, though cloying, accurately reflects how I think when the Muse is nearby. I'm a saccharine Faulkner. I'm artificial. My Muse and I grunt and groan and sweat and thrust and play and writhe and finally lie back in exhaustion, each secretly fearing that we've let the other down. And I still don't know her name.
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Wow. That was really beautiful.

I hope to know more of her through you, as you allow.
Obviously you've got the talent. Do NaNoWriMo. I doubt I'm the first person to suggest it, but I may be the most adamant. I used to write short stories that I could dash off in one sitting and, if I really felt motivated, polish at a future date. Since doing NaNo in 2003, I've finished four novels.

It will change your life.
We're cosmic twins, separated by fate.

Nah, I know him through DamnPortlanders and we've met in person a couple of times for nonstop talkfests. I don't think you and I have met, since I never go to meetups or anything.
Yay! A fellow NaNo-er! Have you done NaNo any other time than in 2003. That was my first one.

But I, too, suggest doing NaNoWriMo. It's an insane challenge, but a good one.
I did it in 2003, 2004, and then wrote another novel in January 2005. It wasn't quite as much fun doing it alone, but the method still worked.

November is coming up! Are you going to do it again?
You bet I'm going to do it again! ^_^ And I was mistaken - 2002 was my first go at NaNo. So, I've done it three times, and finished three times. People think I'm crazy, but I'm a good crazy.
It's the best kind of crazy! And it's great to have the (semi-)finished product at the end.
Yeah - and it forces me to write every day. Though by the middle of the month, I'm usually asking myself why I decided to do it again. Maybe one of these days I'll finish before my friend, kenley, but I doubt it.
My opinion is not as feel-good or encouraging, but I think it's valid.

If you're really and truly a great writer, then the words will burn in your soul until you put them onto paper. If you're not really a great writer, but simply someone who wishes they were, then you'll flit around for years and years wondering how the most successful writers do it.

Workshops, classes and seminars do not a great writer make. That being said, they can hone the skills of writers of all levels, and provide direction for those lacking it.

Write for yourself. If your work strikes a chord with millions, wonderful. If not, then at least you've made yourself happy.
How can you be such an asshole?

That being said, thanks!

Needless to say, I was kidding about the "asshole" comment. While it's certainly nice to get positive reinforcement, honest commentary is what I need. If I suck, I want to know it. And I want to know why. The critic I respect the most is the one who trashed my screenplay. I thought she was wrong in some aspects, but she was so completely honest with me that I trusted her more than the others.

Of course, then I read her novel and knew I couldn't hold a candle to her brilliance. My toughest obstacle is reading great writers and knowing I can never match their prose. Perhaps that's why I've read so little Barbara Kingsolver.

I think you comments are spot on and I appreciate them.
I think his comments are nonsense.

Unless, of course, you will only settle for being a Great Writer.
If you want to write and see how it turns out, see what you've got in you, just do it.

He is right that workshops are largely a waste of time. Let yourself do your thing, try not to stand in your own way, and learn as you go. Writing a novel is drastically different from writing short stories. You'll learn about pacing and story arcs by writing a first draft and letting it sit for a while, then going back to see how it reads.

I'll stop my preaching. Good luck!
Please don't think that I was critiquing your original post itself. Those few paragraphs alone aren't enough for anyone to try to judge you as a writer. But you seemed to be saying that you yourself judge your writing as being mediocre, and you provided specific adjectives (such as 'cloying,' and 'artificial') that indicate you know what your weaknesses are. My comments were intended to suggest that the best writers tend to be the ones who pinpoint those weaknesses and work hard to eliminate them.

It takes dedication and perseverance to be great at anything, but you can have fun at all levels of expertise along the way. You simply need to decide how far you want to go, and if you're willing to do what it takes to get there.
That romanticized image of The Writer is exactly what kept me stuck writing the same novel for five years, and it's total bullshit.

Many fine writers are unsure and self-conscious about their own skills, and it sometimes takes a kick in the ass to shake them out of dabbling and make them get to work.

Besides, most of us aren't going to be great writers. Letting go of that expectation is a huge step toward getting the words onto paper. It's better to focus on your story, tell it the way you want, and then when you've written it, evaluate it and see if it's good.

The ideas burn in my soul. Getting the words on paper is like pulling my fingernails off. I don't do it because I'm a Great Writer and I Must Write or Die. I do it because I have my own unique vision and I want to see it in print.

I agree with you about workshops, etc. They're useful in a small way, but practice is the best teacher. The people you see in workshops are usually people who haven't finished anything yet. It's more useful to analyse books that you love.

I hope this doesn't sound antagonistic, but are you a writer? If so, you must be one of those who write because they must. Unfortunately, there just aren't many of us who fall into that category.
If I gave you the impression that I was operating under some sort of romanticized image, I apologize. When I said that "the words will burn in your soul until you put the on paper", I didn't mean to imply that they simply flow onto a page for The Great Writer as if it were the act of a divine being in the midst of creation. The act of writing is usually a lot more mundane and difficult than that, which was essentially my point. For anyone who hopes to be a successful writer, an "I Must Write or Die" mentality is not necessary, but there is a certain degree of dedication to the craft that is required.

Yes, I am a writer. Sometimes I write because I feel compelled by something I feel the need to express. Sometimes I write for fun. Or revenge. It could be any number of things. But it's almost never easy; at least not easy to do well. If it were, everyone would do it.
Thanks for your civil response to my somewhat aggressive comment. :~) I agree with everything you said in this one. Writing is not easy, but if everyone knew the high that comes when the words come together in the right way, they'd all want to write.
Romeo and Julian would be good, but they ought to buttfuck and then be killed by their respective families. A+.
Admit it, you just want me to write gay porn for you. Actually, you want anyone to write gay porn for you. Don't lie, Travis.
At least you're not writing any Jesus slash.

I can't believe I'm actually linking to that.

I'm not very good at critiquing literature, so I don't know what to say, aside from that this post seems to show me that you've got a good deal of untapped talent. It sounds like you're being too self-conscious about it. I get the feeling that your writing, when honed, would be a lot like Neal Stephenson. Very vivid, descriptive, with a side of technical knowledge. :D
Your muse...
Damn! You go bro! If it makes you happy go for it! And you were never boring when we were kids. Even if I acted like it. You were always one up when it came to getting someones attention! You are probably ten times better than you give yourself credit for.
I think the hardest part about writing is getting into your groove. You know what you want to say but it just takes time. If you were to lock yourself in a mountain cabin with your laptop for a few weeks I'm sure you would have a rough draft of something worthwhile.

Here's the kicker though: you are your own worst critic. It's hard to express in words what you would like to create. Just about anything you produce will not be good enough in your eyes. Striving for perfection yields hesitancy which is the stage you're currently in.
"I think of writing as a dream. I also think of it as a supreme act of narcissism. Of vanity. Who am I to think that others will want to read what I write? And yet here I am, perversely, writing."

This is where I've been in the past year or two. Completely. It's actually stopped me from writing what I love and for some reason, I can't seem to pick up again. :(
Writing is just storytelling. You need a good story and compelling, interesting characters; if you have those then the actual writing is just technique. I'd recommend spending much more time on the what and the who, rather than the how. Be honest and true in the telling of your tale and try to avoid being clever and brillant. Those will come on their own if the story is worth hearing. If not, then you're just doing tricks with words.