Giving the Muse a break

I’m sure there’s hardly a writer anywhere who never gets blocked.  Writer’s block is probably as prevalent as writer’s cramp, and just as painful in a different way. A couple of years ago I had a two-month stretch where I was pretty sure my Muse was in Bermuda, lounging on the pink coral sand and drinking Singapore Slings.

In retrospect it’s hard to blame her. I’d been working her hard that year, and I guess she just felt we could all stand a little – what’s the phrase? Oh, yeah – “work-life balance”. So off she went to the beach, leaving me in Northern Ontario checking my messages and wondering if I’d actually written myself out.

Well, of course I hadn’t.  And she came back, tanned and relaxed, and we went back to work.

I think the saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” probably applies to anything you love, not simply people. Yes, I sometimes get distracted from the writing I want to do by books or art or conversation or cats. (Having Ampersand draped over my shoulder definitely slows down my typing, and draped over my shoulder is where he likes to sleep.) When I’ve spent a few days away from the work, though, I really want to get back to it. I think that’s what the Muse was telling me when she took off.

A break helps.

This summer I’ve taken the breaks. I’ve spent a lot of time away from writing – at least, a lot of time for me. But I’ve also learned to take an interior break by working on not only more than one project, but more than one kind of project.

Today I have two mysteries I want to work on; one needs a polish, and the other needs a rewrite. I’m just learning to write mysteries, where to put clues, how to build character and lay red herrings and, most importantly, how to give the reader all the information without whacking her (or him) over the head with it. There’s a fine line between having the reader say, at the denouement, “Oh! Of course! Why didn’t I see that?” and having them know halfway through the story that the butler did it. It’s a line I’m still learning to walk.

Percolating away in the back of my mind is my novel, which is fantasy and paranormal romance. I need to work on that, too – I have to throw a couple of roadblocks into the way of the main romance. I have to develop my female lead and make her a more interesting person. In practical terms, I need to double the word count (with more than “blah, blah, blah”!) in order to make this story novel-length.

But while those things go on the background, I have my whodunnits at the front of my mind. The venue is different; my romance is set in the present, my mysteries in the Middle Ages. The characters are different, the social setting is very, very different, and the whole business of involving myself in that other world is – restful. At least, it’s restful to my paranormal-romance Muse. And that’s good, because when she gets rested up, we have a lot to do.

In the meantime, I hope while she’s making herself a Singapore Sling that I can get her to make me one, too.

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