A Writer’s Muse

If art imitates life, does that mean that life is my muse?

One of many actually.

When I first started writing in middle school, it wasn’t long before I had a moment of clarity regarding my work – it’s not original. I’m not being overly-critical of myself here, just that I came to realize what my role as a writer was in some ways like that of an artist – at least my view of artists, coming from someone who would have loved to be a painter but just couldn’t embrace that particular form of media.

What I realized is that words are overused. The world is so big and there are so many languages and there have been so many people to have lived this crazy life that anything I could express was most likely expressed by someone else already. So why even bother? Because even if someone has said it before, that doesn’t mean my audience has heard/read it before. At the risk of sounding off my nut, I came to embrace an almost ethereal muse. I would meditate on this idea that everything has been said before and then just let the words come to me, almost as if someone else was talking through me. Many times, it was like I could view all of the words, and I was picking them out to arrange them in a number of sequences that made sense to me – almost like an artist will take many different colors of paint and mix them together to create a painting. I wrote in this method for so long that it became as if the poems and stories already existed, I was just giving them a voice.

I no longer meditate on this idea…much. But the method has in some ways continued to live on within me. When I first started writing my first novel, “The Source,” the characters took on a life of their own. I would sit down to write and scenes would develop in a way I never expected, characters actually shocking me with the things they said and did. After so many years of not seriously writing, this experience amazes me again and again every time it happens. And if it doesn’t happen, I start to wonder if the plot is really going in the direction it should.

I now understand when novelists like Laurell K. Hamilton often refer to their characters as if they are real people. Life is not just our muse. Our muses are living entities that we “literarily” give birth to and often refer to as loved ones.

Does this make us crazy? Maybe. It definitely makes us good storytellers because a good story comes from someone who lives comfortably in her own imagination.

I’m not going to worry about any possible pathology until I start preferring my characters over real people, and on some days, that becomes way too difficult to resist.

Art imitates life

Or in my case, art saved my life.

Like I said in my previous post, I used poetry to purge a lot of the dark feelings that I had when I was a pre-teen/teenager. Writing was a way of venting my frustrations, hurts and secrets without talking to a real person. That may seem kind of sad, but it was useful, and I don’t want to think what could have become of me if I hadn’t written so much during those times.

I still use writing to purge feelings, but I mostly use it to explore the human condition and range of emotions. I guess that gets back to my interest in sociology and how groups manage in an ever-changing world. Many of the scenes in my upcoming novel The Source explores various situations and how a person might act/react in that environment. For me, writing a novel is a many-months process of thinking about “you can’t know what you would do unless you were in my shoes.” In many ways, the writing helps me to develop as a person as it forces me to look at things from different perspectives – but only because I choose to write in that style. There are many writers who write content that is only for mindless entertainment for the reader, and that’s completely valid. If there wasn’t a need for that type of escapism, then there wouldn’t be such a large market for trashy romance novels. Not everyone gets lost in Shakespeare.

And not that I’m comparing myself to Shakespeare. Far from it. With Shakespeare, the reader is taken on a journey of humanity. In my writing, it’s me who is on the journey and everyone else is along for the ride. Who knows whether anyone will ever get anything “deep” from my novels. I sure hope so. But even if it allows readers to relax for a few minutes a day, then I will feel successful. That would actually be beyond success. For me, the writing is success in itself if I am lucky enough to better understand people and be more compassionate because of it. For anyone to enjoy it? Well, that’s just extra gravy goodness.

A Writer Emerges

In middle school my love for reading quickly turned into a love for writing. I was emotionally twisted and found a loyal friend in my notebook. I began writing pages and pages of poetry. I even entered my poems in local contests and actually won. I believed that I had found what it was I was meant to do in life.

My writing style was heavily ornate and utterly dark. Poetry and teen angst make for morbid imagery. Add a fascination with vampires and preoccupation with death and you get some beautifully tragic verses. In many ways writing saved me by allowing me to purge myself of that darkness, but a high school English teacher almost muzzled my inner voice.

We had an assignment to write a poem using iambic pentameter. I loved these kinds of assignments because I felt like I could really embrace my artistic ability in school work. I turned in my poem and was confident that she would be impressed with my talent. Instead she negatively criticized my poem over two lines she said were incorrect because I used a mixed metaphor.

I was appalled. How could something I wrote be incorrect? Wasn’t there such a thing as poetic/artistic license?

My response to this? I wrote another poem…completely filled with nothing but mixed metaphors. From that point – like my attitude with many things – I raged against being restricted. That’s really what it’s all about. Poetic license is the literary way to say bite me, I don’t need your rules.

You’ll see this attitude come out in a lot of my writing.

The Reader Within

I have loved books for as long as I can remember. I can’t really pinpoint the time when I fell in love with reading, but I guess it was probably in elementary and middle school.

In 4th and 5th grade I had the privilege of working in the school library. I read books, but mostly I was the person who helped organize the stacks – back when libraries still used physical card catalogs and the dewey decimal system was an exciting new code that only the literarily enlightened could understand.  My time with the elementary school library was what eventually led to my romanticized dream of working in a book store. That dream was never realized, at least not in a brick-and-mortar store. It’s a completely different world since that time.

Although I read books in elementary school – particularly the Nancy Drew series – I wouldn’t say that I loved reading. I enjoyed the world of mystery and suspense in those books, but it wasn’t until 6th grade that my love affair with the written word began.

Every year at my middle school we would be treated to a book fair. Hundreds of books would be set up in the library and students would beg their parents for some cash to buy anything that caught their eye. Mad Libs were very popular, and I was also swept up in the fun of creating crazy stories with my friends. But, one day after talking about a book in my English class, I found a copy of it at the book fair and used my Mad Lib money to buy it. I have been an avid – almost obsessive – reader ever since. That book was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.

I cannot really explain why it was that particular book that sparked the fire, but I’m not going to complain. Now I just recognize that it was a very humble beginning for a lover of paranormal and vampire fiction. Particularly considering that one of the other books that I bought at the fair was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I actually didn’t finish it! I got bored with Dracula. Me, lover of all things vampire, bored with the father of all vampires! That’s right. It was actually Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that got me interested in paranormal-type fiction.

I have since reconciled with Dracula, but still think that Frankenstein is the better book – and as you will learn, this says a lot about the writing styles that I enjoy today – even if they are more of the pointy-tooth variety.


Getting started with a new blog

I have finally decided to dump LJ and move my bloggity-type writing to WordPress. Part of the reason for this decision is that once I have my author web site up and running (oh, when will that every happen?!), this blog will be integrated into that site and WordPress provides a much cleaner structure for that.

Now, the main focus of this blog will be my writing, but there will be tidbits about me and some of my biggest interests – mainly books. Unlike many novelists, I not only write, but I am an avid reader.

On that note, one thing that I have decided to do this year is to keep a list of the books that I have read for the year. I’m proud to say that the first book I read in 2012 was from an indie author associate of mine Alisha Paige. I finished the book “Deadly R&R” which she wrote under the name Ruby Vines (check out her blog here). I must say that “Deadly R&R” is a departure from what I usually read, which is paranormal fiction/romance. This book could be described as “chick lit,” and it was a refreshing break from my usual reads. I found it thrilling, with just the right amount of romance without being too raunchy. Now, I am somewhat a fan of the raunch, but I would much rather my imagination fill in the gaps than being told every naughty detail – in that way, this book delivers.

“Deadly R&R” is not a deep read, nor is it meant to be. Like most fiction, it’s not only meant to tell a story, but provide a much-needed escape from reality where we can live vicariously through the thrills and spills of the characters. That’s one of the main reasons that I enjoyed this book – it transported me from my own life and kept me in the fantasy.

From “Deadly R&R,” I decided to give the Harry Potter books another try. I had started to read them before, but for whatever reason stopped midway through the third book. I have already finished “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and I’m about half-way done with “Harry Pottery and the Chamber of Secrets.” I will refrain from posting much commentary on these books as I think that horse has done been beat to death, and I’m sure that anything I could say on the subject has already been said by the millions of HP fans around the world – except to say that reading the series has forced me to resort to physical books (yes, I am a fan of e-publishing and a HUGE fan of Amazon Kindle).

That’s enough for now as it’s time for one of my other addictions – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series, not the movie – I could never get past Pee-Wee as a vampire…it’s more ridiculous than any of the worst things you could say about the Cullens).