Saturday, March 7, 2009

Romancing the Muse

I write every day. Right now that's easier to do than usual because I have a writing residency that gives me the gift of time, but even when life is hectic, I write very regularly.  Place doesn't matter quite as much; I write in coffee shops, airports, waiting rooms, wherever I have time to linger. The best writing, however, the writing of my wild mind, happens at home at my desk with the talismans and tokens in this photo and my cat Dill on his pillow beside me.  Students often complain to me of writer's block.  The best advice I have to give them boils down to a few simple things:
  • Turn off all your electronic devices--just like when you're on an airplane--and simply sit quietly for a bit, allowing your brain to hear its own thoughts.
  • Make a date with your muse every day and don't stand her (or him) up.  Even if it's just time for a quick snog.  Be there in the chair with the pen and paper or laptop and put the words on the page.
  • Don't be critical of your writing as you draft.  Just write.  Criticize and revise later.  When you're having a tough time keeping dates to write new stuff, make a date to work on revisions. That's when you can be tough, but even then, think of revising as a form of play. Imagine the possibilities for your poem or story.  Don't feel married to earlier drafts.  There's been no wedding--just dates.
  • This last one is the most important one: read.  Read books you love.  Read with abandon. Read more than you write.  Become a book addict.  It is the single most valuable habit a writer can cultivate.  Even if you've missed a date or two with the muse, she'll forgive you if she knows you've been reading.  

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