Saturday, February 27, 2016

How to keep and feed a muse

Ray Bradbury recommends a healthy diet for the muse consisting mainly of poetry. Read poetry everyday of your life, is one of the tips he gives in his book, The Zen of Writing. It's a great book. Easy to read and digest. Bradbury sounds like a friend. An older writer friend whom you visit occasionally and ask for advice over a cup of coffee, or a glass of whiskey, in a very by the way manner so it doesn't seem that that was the only reason you actually visited him. And he tells you, in a matter of fact way, to read poetry. Which, of course, is NOT the answer you were looking for.

It wasn't the answer I was looking for either and this post isn't about how I turned to poetry and it changed my writing life forever. Far from it. After writing on and off since the past few months I've realised that feeding the muse is not as simple as Bradbury makes it look.

Who is my muse? I think my muse is a pessimist by nature, generally good-for-nothing, and mostly  sarcastic. Whenever I sit down to write, it makes me feel uncomfortable and foolish about my writing. It also makes it very enticing not to write. Isn't it supposed to do the opposite? No matter how much and what I read, it refuses to get motivated and help me.

So I've decided to let my muse go. At least for the time being. Poetry is food for the soul but it wasn't really helping me take my story forward. The first time I realised I didn't need a muse to write was during NaNoWriMo in November last year. Maybe the goal of reaching 50k words acted like a muse but I didn't indulge in reading poetry or prose during that time. All I did was sit at my desk everyday and write. After November, writing became a bit of a struggle because the muse returned. It started creating uncertainties and doubts in my mind about my work and I became a victim to its rantings, once again. 

Today I've decided to let my muse go. At least for the time being. It is a little strange to shun it so because I'm afraid it might never return. But at the same time, I feel like it isn't there for me when I need it most. Or as Oscar Wilde put it:

'Art will fly if held too lightly,
Art will die if held too tightly,
Lightly, tightly, how do I know,
Whether I'm holding or letting Art go?'

Where's your muse today?