Thursday, July 5, 2012

From the Muse

I'll dutifully raise my hand!
All of you writers out there who have ever found yourselves frittering away time on the internet or watching TV, or texting, or what have you, raise your hands!  (Figuratively, of course – no need to start gesturing at your computer screen).

I have absolutely no doubt that I am not the only one who sometimes finds it just so much easier to waste time than to pull out my notebooks and writing files and start chugging away on one of my novels.  I’m also sure that I’m not the only one who feels obscurely guilty about this.  This is not the first time I’ve discussed how easy it is as an artist to be hard on oneself for not working on a project during every spare second. 

I think this attitude is reinforced for me because of my background.  My parents are very conservative, so we didn’t watch any broadcast television at all, and only the most occasional movie, during my childhood.  By the time I reached my teenage years, I’d only seen the expected Disney cartoons, a smattering of musicals, That Darn Cat and the Star Wars trilogy. (I exaggerate slightly – but only slightly). 

Then the Lord of the Rings trilogy came out, and because I was a Tolkien-geek of considerable standing – though I never went so far as to teach myself Elvish or anything extravagant like that – I convinced my parents we had to see the movies. From then on, they’ve slowly become more open to the possibilities of modern entertainment. 

If my parents hadn't limited TV, I couldn't make this!
Now, I am actually extremely grateful to my parents for their decision to limit my exposure to television, etc., quite strictly.  The need to entertain myself in other ways forced me to take refuge in books, to cultivate a lively imagination, to develop my sewing skills, to get outside in the summer, and so on.  Especially the first two elements have been extremely formative for me as a writer. 

The downside, however (I say this for any parent out there who reads this and just happens to be debating how much television to allow a child), is that when I moved out of the house to go to college, I practically craved movies and TV.  I’m a very curious person and I wanted finally to be in the know about all the movies my friends had discussed in high school.  My roommate and soon to be best friend, Vasnefy, had a satisfactorily large video collection, plus there was the library and Netflix.  I’d estimate that we’d watch three movies every weekend and probably two or three more during any given week.  That’s a lot.  Sometimes I look back and think about how much other stuff I could have been doing and feel a twinge of regret.  I did write a whole novel during my college years, but if I hadn’t been so busy sucking down pop culture with a straw, I might have written two!

Regrets aside, my addiction to television and internet, etc., has been greatly ameliorated with maturity. However, everyone will probably join me in admitting that it is for sure easier simply to relax with a movie or show, or by browsing online, or with video games, than to gear oneself up for hours of writing, especially after a long day at work.  Sometimes the nerves are just so frazzled by the demands of a job that trying to force anything else out of them is practically painful.  

I am here to say that I think this is actually okay.  Granted, balance is needed (that’s what my blog is about, right?).  I was definitely imbalanced in college, but I think it’s possible to reach a spot where the apparent dissipation of TV watching, etc., is actually helpful for writing – or any art. 

That’s where my blog title comes in.  My highly inaccurate etymology of the word ‘amuse’ is ‘to come from the muse.’  The accurate etymology has something to do with standing with one’s nose in the air – don’t ask me why….Anyway, amusement is something that relaxes our tired minds, opens them, and leads them to the state of leisure where we can be creative at last.  Sometimes we need the inspiration of someone else’s talent in order to jumpstart our own. 

Meet my TV-loving, NSFW muse!
That’s one of the reasons why I’ve become interested in independent and foreign films.  Much more obviously than with blockbusters, the directors and writers make efforts to be subtle, artistic, layered.  Their efforts make me want to make efforts, too. At the same time that I get to be lazy and recuperate from a busy day while watching their work, my mind is being set in motion in a good way.  It’s the best of all possible worlds, really.  My muse (my inspiration, that is) comes to life and starts whispering in my imagination about possibilities for my own plots or characters.  It’s like a gift. 

On a slightly less elevated, but highly effective level, there’s also a method that an acquaintance of mine shared with me.  He turns on an episode from a TV show, then starts laboring to create fantastic renders of his architectural designs, switching over occasionally to watch a few minutes of the show.  That way, he gives himself tiny breaks in the middle of his projects.  I’ve started using the same method in the evenings while writing, and it works great.  Of course I don’t get as much written, but by the end of a three hour period, I’ve advanced maybe a page or a page and a half, but also relaxed by watching a couple of episodes of something (usually my current addiction – Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the most recent…). 

You’ve probably noticed, if you’ve read through my blog, that I emphasize frequently the pointlessness of feeling guilty about not writing.  It is a theme, I know, because it’s something I struggle with.  I want to write, but if I force myself too much, I get jaded.  Reading, watching TV, browsing online – these things all have a place, even if it’s just to smooth the way toward better writing. 

But with that sage advice I must leave you.  Quite apropos to my topic, I have a movie to watch:  Decoy Bride.  It looks to be an utterly delightful romantic comedy, with Scottish accents to boot!  I will be sure to tell you how it is when I’m done. 


  1. I like your process in writing ~ In the beginning, I didn't care for prompts or joining writing communities but the loneliness of writing gets you ~ I have a learned a lot from reading other's blogs and improving my writing from posts of my poetry communities ~

    I appreciate your visit and comments in my blog ~

    Cheers ~

    1. Thanks for visiting me in turn!

      It is amazing how lonely writing can be, it's true. Communicating with other artists through blogs and writing communities really does help, as does learning from established (even dead!) writers and storytellers. That was what I was trying to get at when I said even movies can inspire us.