Sometimes I think the moon is my muse, or is it the moon that brings the muse out in me? I can write without the muse, but it’s like using a hose to water my garden when it really needs a soaking rain ~ From Muses Like Moonlight by Colleen.
I’ve discovered that driving to Christiansburg a few times a month for the bigger city items not found in the small town is a wonderful way to stimulate writing. I now have a regular writer’s pit stop. By the time I pull over at the Riner Food Center, half way between Floyd and Christiansburg, I’m tense with the weight of words, as though I’ve been holding my breath. Once there, parked between The First National Bank and The Buffalo Store, I let it all out onto notebook paper. Whew.
Today, I was thinking about my brother Jim. When his daughter was a baby and he couldn’t get her to stop crying, he buckled her up in the car seat and took her for a drive around town. It usually worked like a charm, he told me.
What is it about getting out on the open road that seems to clear your head? It reminds me of how I make great doodles only when I’m talking on the phone or otherwise having a conversation. If I were to face a blank piece of paper and told to just make a doodle, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Similarly, it’s hard to write with a blank screen or paper in front of you. This is what I said about writing in my book The Jim and Dan Stories:
Writing doesn’t happen when I sit down with an empty piece of paper or at a blank computer screen to do it. It happens all day in my head, usually while I’m doing something else. And it won’t happen if I don’t take down those notes. If you don’t record your phone messages or write them down, chances are, you’ll forget them, especially if you’re getting a lot.
Writing does happen when I sit down with an empty piece of paper or at a blank computer screen and mix what happens there, on the spur of the moment, with the notes that I’ve already taken. If one exists without the other, writing doesn’t usually happen for me. The secret to writing a book, I think it’s this: Take good notes and write often enough that it starts to accumulate. But there is also an alignment that has to take place, when you match ability and willingness to do the work with the way that has opened to do it.
There is a craft to writing, but it won’t get you far if it’s not preceded by inspiration, also known as “the muse.” The muse can be elusive if approached directly, and in my life, it’s hard to know if the muse is driving me or if I’m driving the muse. I wonder, when I drive to Christiansburg, am I taking a temperamental muse for a ride, the way my brother drove his fussy baby around to help her settle down?
Note: Originally posted on looseleafnotes.com on May 23, 2005.