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Brittany: What Happened to My Muse?

I always have something in my mental queue. Some of the ideas are very promising. Some are wacky. Some might inspire others. Some inspire me. I had thought that my next writing project would be the sequel to my novel, all about Jillian (the ex-nympho) and her pregnancy from hell. But I’m just not feeling it. It’s winter, it’s cold, and quite frankly, I’m not in the mood to write humor. I want to begin something substantial, the kind of book you want to curl up with by a raging fire, and I have an idea for a good one. It would be a historical romance set in eastern Ohio during WWI, between an American soldier and a German-American girl. The typical “shouldn’t be together, but can’t help themselves” kind of love story. That’s part of the reason I’m reluctant to write the story. It’s been told before. It also requires a lot of research. And it would be the literary equivalent of a drama, when I’m more of a sitcom writer.

So I go back and forth. Jillian and the pregnancy? WWI and love? Back and forth, all day long. I’ve been consumed with it lately, because come February 1st, I’ve got to get started on something. This not writing thing is getting miserable. I’m nervous and irritable, drinking pots of coffee, web surfing. Here, my email, my blog, Facebook, here again. All day long. I’m like an addict going through withdrawal. Don’t know what else to do. Don’t want to do anything else.

There are so many things I should be doing, but aren’t right now, and they’re crowding out the time I have for things I want to do. I’m not even sure how I’ll fit writing in.

I joined Weight Watchers last week, for the fifth or sixth time (I’ve lost count), and part of my weight loss success depends on me going to the gym. It would make sense to go in the mornings when Sam is in preschool, but that conflicts with my only writing window, too. Monday mornings are still free, but Tuesdays are completely taken up by my Weight Watchers meeting. On Wednesdays, I can either go to the gym or take John to a children’s program at the library. Thursdays and Fridays are still free, but I struggle between writing and going to the gym on those days as well. And there’s always something to clean at home. I can’t forget to add that into the mix. I feel chronically overbooked. And I’m so preoccupied with domestic minutia that I don’t have a spare brain cell to devote to making a decision.

I’d like to know where my writing muse ran off to, since she typically provides me with some guidance at times like these. But even if she could get into my head (which is doubtful, as it’s standing room only at the moment), she’d have to body check her way past my ever-increasing contingent of other muses. The paragon-of-Mommyhood Muse. The clean house Muse. The home-cooked-meal-every-night Muse. And the hit-the-gym-instead-of-sitting-on-your-butt Muse. All of whom are currently Jello wrestling for face time with me.

Meanwhile, the one muse I’d like to entertain is nowhere to be found.

I could easily write the Jillian book. I know the story backwards and forwards. In my head, I have a beginning, middle, and end. I know all the main characters, and most of the auxiliary characters, too. I could write this book on auto-pilot, because coming off of Home Improvement I know exactly what tone and momentum I need. I’ve already outlined the book, too. So why don’t I want to write it?

Because I want a challenge.

And isn’t that stupid? I have enough challenges right now. I don’t need another one. But I keep piling them on. I don’t feel successful as a wife, mother, or woman unless I can leap tall buildings in a single bound. And if I can leap one tall building, there’d better be another one  on the horizon so I can keep proving myself over and over and over again.

And that’s why I want to write something completely different. To prove to myself more than anyone that I’m not a one-trick pony.

What will my next novel be? I don’t know. But I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I’d like to know how you decide on your next project. What inspires you and what keeps you going?

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. suzannerevy #

    First off, I stopped going to the gym for the exact reasons you cite. It was my only window of time without the kids… and I chose the darkroom muse over the thin and healthy muse.

    And the clean house muse… I kicked her out long ago, not that I ever spent much time amusing her.

    The home cooked meal.. still amuse that one.

    I decided that the mess in the house and the body (well, a little more of it than I want) would still be there, and if I had attended to them with the same care as I have my photography, then I wouldn’t have the portfolio of pictures I have made over the last four or so years. I”d be thin, well, thinner, and the house would be tidy, but I wouldn’t be taking my show of prints down to a small museum today if those other the muses had had more of my attention.

    Good luck with the book.

    January 26, 2009
  2. Good advice, Suzanne — there often isn’t time for every important thing on the list. Maybe when there isn’t time to go to the gym, one can instead focus on eating well and doing a few situps here and there. Small ways to work toward the goal without sacrificing that precious time for creativity.

    Brittany, your muse will come back. Just breathe and let it bubble up.

    January 26, 2009
  3. cathy #

    brittany, i agree with the above and boy do i hear you. wait til my post tomorrow. we should start our own support group.

    in the meantime, i think you and i both have an additional issue going on: i’m in my long haul back from the issue that kept me in bed for c’s pregnancy and beyond, and you are coming back from PNEUMONIA! as well as having infants plus, so give yourself a break. i know, i know, i’m sooo done with ‘giving myself a break…’ but your body is busy on healing, and therefore diverting important brain function, etc to that.

    January 26, 2009
  4. Liz #

    wow. it’s like you ripped a page out of my life and posted it! I, too, drink too much coffee & waste too much time surfing the net for no reason other than I am restless and can’t seem to channel that energy into anything productive. (Of course that restlessness never inspires me to get off my butt, either & that doesn’t help a woman’s self-esteem.)

    here’s my 2 cents:

    1. I don’t think your WW meetings are a problem. Those are probably going to be good for you if not just to get out of the house & realize you are not alone. In fact, you are every woman after having children & responsibilities. It might be fun. Instead – put a rule on the computer & coffee consumption. This is what I am trying to do right now anyway, and, can you tell it’s working so well because I am sitting here on the net with a steaming cup of coffee, when I should be getting dressed & taking the kids out. (Well, thank god it’s only coffee and not meth or something.) But seriously. Give yourself a rule “no internet until after lunch – whatsoever.” (Or whenever is convenient for you.) And buy a notebook. That way, when you sit down to write, you won’t be tempted to check out your facebook page, which inevitably leads to an hour of random surfing. That steals time from kids & creativity & it is way too addictive.

    2. Although I didn’t have pneumonia, being sick all the time is DEPRESSING! I catch EVERYTHING and I catch it WORSE than everyone in the house. It’s like they’ll all get a cold & I’ll get hit with the flu. I get strep, a swollen lymph node and other bizarre-o things that no one else gets. So I spend a lot of my time feeling like I’m coming down w/ something; I am sick; I am tired because I’m recovering. It saps your energy & makes you feel defeated… repeatedly. I am even trying to battle irrational fears at this point, like “What if I have lymphoma or cancer & that’s why my immune system can’t seem to get it together?” “Why am I tired all the time…. Is this a sign of imminent death?”

    3. I say write the easy one first. If it’s all laid out for you, accomplish it. If you put it on the back burner & challenge yourself, you might not finish that one either & then you’ll really feel like crap. Sit down & force yourself to write the pregnancy story. I will bet you that even though you have it all mapped out, it will still present an unforeseen challenge. They ALWAYS do.

    Well, take care of yourself & as my dad always said, “Keep your chin up, it’s easier for life to sock you again that way.”

    January 26, 2009
  5. cathy #

    liz, brilliant! the meth statement and the sock on the jaw!

    and facebook has definitely been my demise.

    January 26, 2009
  6. Kristine #

    My muse has a really annoying habit of going on vacation without telling me. This week, she’s off playing somewhere while I struggle to even get a page written.

    I feel your pain. 😦

    You’ve got some great advice here, so I won’t add anything else except for my sympathy. I feel your pain.

    I’m sending you good writing vibes for February.

    January 26, 2009
  7. all great advice for you here, brittany. i do agree with liz in that maybe you should complete Jillian’s story first since you have it all layed out and ready to run. then you could feel that sense of accomplishment again.

    you also asked “What inspires you and what keeps you going?” for me, i’m afraid the ‘what keeps me going part’ is usually deadlines. my world operates a little differently from ya’ll’s in that once i commit to an art festival, i’m committed and i have to get product created. of course, i tend to procrastinate terribly and that’s my own issue to work though.

    my other challenge is that i got bored so incredibly easily. i couldn’t sleep last night because i couldn’t turn off my brain. i was designing a shelving unit, creating a new art series, thinking through a workable itinerary for my sister and i to hook up to visit our aunt livy, designing new jewelry peices, redesigning my booth…you get the picture. the gray matter just wouldn’t shut up with all the different directions it wanted to go. so sometimes for me, it’s more like inspiration overload, which leads to not getting anything done at all. having very little free time sometimes makes me just want to throw in the towel…

    January 27, 2009
  8. Great musings…. get it? see, I can do great 1 second creativity bursts, but then, like you, I get distracted, overwhelmed, outnumbered, outsourced.

    I fought very hard to get writing in the right place, to have a spot for it, to have several whole hours dedicated to it. but then….. what am i doing now? The house is silent – little people are off being amused by other big people, the house is clean – did that yesterday, the house has no need to be cooked in today – all taken care of, the house is expecting me to come up with something interesting, and intrigueing and irresistably original. And i’m browsing. Not creating, not thinking, not researching, and certainly, most definitely, not writing my book. So i think you’re right.

    My muse, my inner writing wizard, my mental manager clearly suffers from SAD (seasonal affective disorder). She won’t take off her thermals and come out of hibernation until the clock strikes midnight and banishes January for another year. That gives me three more days to languish in lethargy. And when the sun rises on February first – I expect to see daffodils in the garden, and budding bursts of creativity on my laptop. Until then, I’ve decided to cheat. I’m going to use this reply to you as the basis for my blog today (couldn’t come up with one single topic of interest, so thank you Brittany!), and I’m going to play around with my highlighter pens to edit my work rather than add to it. Three more days. Then the thermals are gone, the sleepy head is cleared and the gloves are off.

    My advice is (cheat) write what you know – go with Jillian until to feel inspired to write WW1. Maybe Jillian will get you going again, so you can go for WW1. As some great man said (I think it was Oscar Wilde) – the art of writing is the art of putting one’s arse on a chair. So let’s all give ourselves three more days and then go sit at the table. In the meantime…. another cup of tea.

    January 28, 2009
  9. My muse must have seasonal affective disorder! That’s got to be it!

    I love the image of my muse bundled head to toe in winter layers, packing it all in, and heading for the beach (and that cabana boy I’ve been looking for!).

    Those of you who suggested writing the Jillian book… Thanks! That’s my plan. I definetely can’t juggle anything new right now, and I feel like this will be a good companion book for Home Improvement. I’m actually starting to feel psyched about getting started!

    January 28, 2009
  10. cathy #

    Yay! and alana, fabulous imagery in your comment! care to join us for the February writing challenge?

    January 28, 2009

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