laylah: a person wearing high boots and a sleeveless shirt lounging with a book open in hir lap (storyteller)
Laylah Hunter ([personal profile] laylah) wrote2013-01-25 02:39 pm

The only voices are my own

I've been sort of following Storm Moon's anniversary blog hop over the course of the month, as one does, and today Lor Rose has a post about her muses, and how she believes that ultimately every author has them. (TW for a lot of jokey language about mental illness.) I sat there for a bit trying to compose a response to the post, but really I think what I want to say ought to be a post of its own.

I have never been a "muses made me do it" writer. I know there are people who get a lot of mileage out of that model, who picture themselves in dialogue with their characters or with a Classical Muse-type figure who spurs them on. But it's never worked for me, for a few reasons:

1. This is hard work. I'm not channeling inspiration that comes from someplace external; I'm not writing down ideas that some magical third party dictates to me. I am conceptualizing characters, building worlds, designing plot arcs, and crafting sentences of my own volition and by my own effort. Some days it goes so smoothly that it does feel almost like a blessing from the gods! Other days it's like trying to plow a field with a hand trowel. But it's still all about me, either way. Blaming a muse for any of it feels like I'd be brushing off that reality: I had to work for every one of those words. They're craft and labor as much as they're inspiration and magic. After all that, I can't imagine WANTING to give the credit to my imaginary friend.

2. Being creative =/= being crazy. This one is a really personal prickly spot for me; I am a writer and I am also a long-term depression sufferer. It took me seventeen years of living with varying degrees of depression before I managed to actually get help and get it under control. A huge part of why it took so long, why I spent all of my 20s being an emotional disaster area, was the idea that the way I felt was just "normal" for a creative person. "I write what the voices in my head tell me to!" is a glib and frivolous riff on that really pernicious idea, and I have no desire to participate in it. (For the record: I am more consistently creative and productive now that my mental illness is well-managed than I ever was as a "crazy" writer.)

Creative minds do work in a variety of ways, obviously; there are clearly people for whom it's helpful to treat their writing process as an internal dialogue, to engage themselves in conversation as a way of getting their creative drive going. But it's not all of us; it's not me. The only voice I'm listening to when I write is my own.

I should probably get going. I've been having a field-vs-hand-trowel week, and I hope to make a deadline at the end of the month. Back to the word mines with me!

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