Sun 23 Jan 2011
I had an experience last week that has me thinking about life in general. The experience may not have been earth shattering for anyone else, but it sure means a lot to me. I got my mojo back.
At first I didn’t realize it was missing. I was still writing, wasn’t I? Well, sort of. I still wrote. I still opened my laptop and kept plugging along on my WIP, The Duke of Eden. Okay, I was plodding than plugging but I was writing. Every weekend and a couple of nights a week I made myself write. Made myself write? Yeah, I did. I realized that I wasn’t writing for the joy of it. I wasn’t writing because I had to write. I wasn’t writing because I couldn’t NOT write. That’s when I knew it was gone.
But lots of things are gone these days. Perhaps life changes, reduces, contracts, but it goes on. I think we’ve all learned to walk away from things. We’ve let them go and kept walking because that’s what we had to do. So even if my writer’s mojo had left me, I didn’t need it. I’d keep walking and I’d even keep writing. I’d keep going forward until it got better. Because if I kept going, it would get better, wouldn’t it?
Except lots of time passed and it didn’t get better. I kept moving forward but I never got anywhere. The holidays went by and I adored having my family together and my eldest home where he belongs. But there was lots of time for me to write over the holidays. I couldn’t spend every moment in Zack’s room staring at him sappily while he played World of Warcraft. (Eventually he’d kick me out.)
When I’d get evicted from Zack-watching I’d go by and pester John and then stop in to pester my youngest, Sam. All of them stay fairly ensconced at a computer somewhere. So I’d head back to the den where my Toshiba Satellite sits on a nice little folding table I got for Christmas a few years ago from my hubby. I’d sit on my end of the love seat and spend more time watching TV than working on my book. Whole days would pass with me cranking out a paragraph. On a good day, I might write 2 paragraphs. That should’ve been a sharp wake up call for someone who used to laugh at people who said a writer’s prime was about 6 pages a day.
For the love of all things that quack, it got so bad that I starting searching around on the weekends to find America’s Next Top Model. (It’s generally on somewhere.) But if I couldn’t find it, I’d watch marathons of Cops, House Hunters, Top Chef or Parking Wars. Notice a theme there? I didn’t for a long time. But yeah, I guess I was hiding from creativity. I was taking refuge in reality – or the TV version anyway.
You know what it took for me to realize how much I missed my mojo? I got a 5-star review on Amazon from a lovely reader for The Duke of Eden. She mentioned that she particularly enjoyed the writer’s voice in the story – or the 2 parts that are up so far. (I’m publishing this one in serial form for Kindle only. The full book will be available everywhere – including Amazon.) That comment made me realize that somehow, somewhere, in losing my mojo – I’d lost my voice. And it’s a big part of who I am. Could I give that up? Had I already left it too far behind to go back and retrieve?
The next couple of times I sat at my laptop after that review, I was at least motivated. I was trying to hear my characters telling me their story. But no matter how hard I tried, the only voice I heard was mine, the bad part of mine. I heard the English major part that worried more about word choice than mood or emotion. I couldn’t hear my muse. I couldn’t even feel my muse. I started getting scared.
Then last Saturday I sat down at my computer, turned on some reality show and tried to write again. Then my eyes and my attention started wandering. I started fiddling around with the position of the little white folding table where my laptop resides. I was trying to get it closer to the loveseat so I could prop a pillow behind me and reduce the strain on my back. I fiddled with the table a while and found a closer position. Then I got up and propped the pillow behind me and leaned back to enjoy. Bliss.
Bliss led me down memory lane, and made me recall my early writing days. Sam – who’s now 13 – was a happy 3-year-old. I’d steal time away from maternal and household duties to sit on the floor with the old IBM Thinkpad John has recently resurrected positioned on the fireplace. I’d tune the TV to one of the music choice channels and I’d write and write.
Wait a minute – lets back up. My floor-sitting days are behind me but what else could I do to recreate the atmosphere of yesterday. Then sometimes my muse spoke so loud that she drowned out my husband, my kids and reality. What was the other ingredient in that mix? Oh yeah – the music. I turned the TV to a news channel and muted the volume. Then I tuned in my favorite radio station – Q 105 out of Tampa Bay, Florida – by way of the internet.
You know what I did then? I wrote. I couldn’t NOT write because muse was nearly shouting in my mind. She was telling me I’d gone astray with part of my story, but that’s okay. I hadn’t published the straying part anywhere yet. So I went back and re-wrote and then I kept going and going. It’s flowing again. Naturally and right and I know it’s right because the characters are telling me the story. And I hear them so clearly that sometimes John will be perched on the other end of the love seat, typing away at his Zombie laptop, and he’ll say something. I won’t hear him and he’ll have to repeat it. The other day I had to apologize and tell him my mind was far away in Regency England and I’d missed his question. That rocked. That really rocked. I knew I had it back. My muse, my mojo, my voice.
And I realized something else too. We don’t always have to keep pushing forward. Sometimes the way forward leads backwards. But that’s okay. Life may go in a circle. It may zigzag or it may even double back. Some things are worth going back for and others are worth going back to. Sometimes, you have to go backward to go forward. And that’s okay too.
Yes, lots of things have changed in today’s economy, in today’s world. I think everyone has had to let go of some things. But that’s all they were – things. The things don’t matter. What matters is refusing to let go of your friends, your family and of pieces of yourself. Because as long as you hold on to yourself you can keep on reaching out to embrace the ones you love. The things are excess. The people are essential. But you’re one of the people who should also matter. It’s not selfish to hold onto whatever it is that makes you happy. For me, writing matters. My voice, my muse is another part of me that I only show the world through my stories. But she can’t get lost or be left behind. She’s essential.
I’ve lost my muse several times recently, but after this time, I hope I remember that the key to keeping her is to recall how my writing “career” started. If I refuse to change the habits of the past that work, I can let go of whatever things reality might require. It’ll let me hold onto the people, including my muse.
And you want proof that Duke of Eden will soon be finished and out there in the world for all my readers, including the kind reviewer who helped me find my way back? Here’s proof – I did the household bills tonight. Also, I’m writing this blog entry on Saturday night, in front of the TV, instead of on Sunday morning when I always write my blog pieces. How’s that proof, you ask?
Sunday is prime writing time.