Riding the Beast

by Raymond M. Coulombe

You never know when the muse will strike. A friend has been kicking around a book idea for years. Recently she’s felt inspired to put a lot more effort into it. So far she’s produced a good eighty or so pages. That’s a pretty solid start on a novel.

My friend is doing the most important thing right now. She’s writing every chance she gets. Those stolen minutes from a busy day add up. You do what you have to do. That’s why I keep a notebook handy. If I get a great idea and I’m not near my computer, I jot it down in the notebook. Some people can keep notes on their phone. Whatever works for you.

What does not work is waiting for later. The muse is very fickle. Her attention is not at your beck and call. Ignore that moment of inspiration and you may never see it again. Personally, I find I can maintain and develop a story idea in my head for about two hours. That’s after years of practice. At that point I’d better sit down for an intense session on the computer.

Inspiration is a funny beast. It makes things look easy. When you are inspired you start to think that this writing stuff is easy. A false sense of competence sets in. You think it can be turned on whenever you need it. The words and ideas flow like a mighty river. There are a few, a very few, writers who are on good terms with the muse. She’s always there. Those writers live in a state of grace. However, should the muse go on vacation for a bit, they are seriously lost.

Writers don’t need inspiration to write. It can a job. You force yourself to sit down and write your thousand words. Day in and day out, you punch in and do your time. The product from all that suffering can be pretty good, but it didn’t flow like a river. It was a steady slog in knee deep mud.

When the muse imparts inspiration, rid it for as far as it will take you. Enjoy the ride, but never take it for granted.

One more pro tip. Don’t waste the gift by talking about your novel. Take that energy that you’d put into talking and use it to write. If you squander the energy talking, you won’t have it for writing. If you want feedback from other people, ask for feedback on what you wrote. Workshopping a story is fine. The key is to have something written to critique.

Don’t wait for the magic to happen before writing your story. Start writing the story. Sooner or later you’ll be asked to hop on for a wild creative ride.

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