Courting the Muse: Learning to listen to your Self in the face of all those “How to Write a Novel in Ten Easy Steps!” tipsters

Early last month, I found myself online, about to register for yet another free video session with a Wise One. This person is FOR sure a wise and lovely man, with much to offer all of us, but as my finger hovered over the CLICK TO REGISTER button, a wee voice spoke very clearly in my head.

She said, “Really? More? Is that what you really want right now, Pam? More words from someone else? Really?”

And the answer was, “No. No that isn’t what I want.” It just isn’t – still.

What I WANT is to value my time alone and to find my way back to simply…listening to my Self. As much as I value all these teachings from others, right now I just need to sit in silence. To sit with myself. To ask questions, perhaps, but to seek the answers INside.
This need to spend time alone with myself in a listening mode is so strong that … For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been retreating to the Writing Burrow each Wednesday evening to attend a 90 minute class with … Pam Bustin.

That may sound insane, but here’s the thing…I can always make it to these free webinar things in the evening, but it seems hard for me to pull myself away from the ole “stories on a drip” that I have turned NetFlix into to get myself back into the burrow to just…do my own thing of an evenin’. So… I invented a 5 week class for myself.

I liked it so much that I think I will keep it up.

I’m writing this today, because it’s that time of year when this gal’s thoughts turn toward the 3 Day Novel Contest (3DNC) which, for those of you who don’t know, is a fantastically fun contest run each year by the good folks at Geist Magazine. The aim being to write a novel (or at least a novella) over the Labour Day Weekend. (Click HERE for more info)

Every year, my prep for the 3DNC is wildly different on some fronts, and solidly the same on others.

I still stand by my Top Five Tips (Click to see goofy vid). These are solid.

What shifts for me is the whole idea of outlining/timelining…ect. In the first few years, I went wild with it. I read books and surfed and plotted and bought software to help me do all that and … and… And yes, that first year, with an incredibly detailed outline and timeline, I made the shortlist in the contest. Cool.

In the past couple of years I’ve been doing some outline type thinking, but leaning more towards thoughts of some loose Structure and rejoicing deeply in the Random Sacred that pops out once I get writing/typing. Last year, I made the short list again. This time all I started with was the opening line

Here we are, in the quiet.

And a bag of hand made runes.

I started writing, pulling runes to lead me through the story. It was a great and often horrifying ride. I was so sure that what emerged would be….nonsense. I had very little trust in my muse or my self but we created a lovely, heart-rending, tale that…though it needs work…I hope to submit somewhere this year. Also Cool, right?

Well…here’s the thing. Even though I done good last year with the whole “seat of my pants / pseudo sacred trance / winging it” thing… that urge…. The urge to… Dream up a story and…Lay it all out like a map I can follow … Is super strong when it comes to this crazy weekend challenge.

I don’t outline when I write.
I hear voices. Usually ONE strong voice, truth be told, and I listen…and sooner or later…I start to take notes and…follow the story they are telling me.

But every year, as the 3DNC approaches….I panic.

Must have an outline!
Must re-read books on writing, and go forth and read the website tips of other writers because I’ve no idea how to this and especially not in three days and I am sure to just…sit there looking at a blank page for three days if I don’t follow someone’s plan of “how to write a story!

I can’t breathe for the panicking.

And… I do play with outlines, and ideas for structuring whatever story has drifted up from… wherever stories are born… I play around especially with outline ideas that don’t necessarily match up the ole Hero’s Journey idea. I seek a different…structure of story-telling, though I know damned well that the heroic journey always works for me as a reader. I’m not sure what the hell I am looking for, but maybe a way to tell a story that doesn’t have to be about….war or violence or chock full of conflict or….something.

Every year, I think….

Maybe it can be more….Inanna’s journey than Odyseus or Luke Skywalker.

I think that every year.

And every year I also yearn for a simple … Caper … That I can write out — full and funny in 72 hours. A straight forward yarn that will roll off my fingertips and tickle everyone’s fancy.

And there is a big part of me that BELIEVES that I could write the hell out of such a caper if I could just pin down the bastid in a nice tidy outline, like all those other writers seem able to create.

I know my strengths as a writer – but I often find myself… Wishing for another way through.
Like how those of us with wavy hair wish it was either thick and curly or bone straight and glossy.
I don’t always appreciate my gift.
I tend to berate my muse more than courting her.

This year, though I know I will play with outlines and possible structures for this barely formed idea we have rattling round – I also plan to spend some time each day letting my Muse choose what we spend our time on.

My wee
My wee “faux-dori” made of deerskin. She has 3 elastics to hold notebooks, and a fold-over flap to keep things tucked in.

So far, we’ve gone berry-picking, spent the day out on the river with my Lovely Raggedy Man and another day out with a friend. We went to a pow wow yesterday. Ms Musey loves the drums.
She thrives on our daily walks and she likes looking at pictures and making doodly drawings.

A peek at my notebooks – I make them out of regular letter-sized paper cut in half and then folded. I trim and round the corners with scissors – dreaming of a paper-trimmer and corner punch….one day.

She is also incredibly happy with the Faux-dori (a home-made version of the uber popular Midori Traveler’s Notebook cover) we made out of deerskin and the wee handmade notebooks we fill it with.

There are 18 days to go til the 3DNC begins.

I am still…grieving.
I am still tired.
And, as you can tell from my earlier references to the ongoing need for “stories on tap” AKA “MY NetFlix addiction” I am still in need of simple solace.

But… I am still…walking my way to water (though I’ve put my work-through of Julia Cameron’s books on hold for a bit longer).
I am still putting words on the page everyday in the Scrib.
I have Grand and Awesome Plans for my Writing Career – of course.
But for now…

Courting my Muse is enough.
And listening to my self.

And here’s what I’m thinking…
I’m going to post each day leading up to “3DNC Go Time!”
Just to give us all a bit of an…antidote to all the planning panic and to all the sites that scream at you that “THIS IS THE WAY TO….outline, to tell a story, to insert conflict, to….yadda yadda yadda” That shit just doesn’t work for me – try and try and TRY as I might to make it.

I’m not sure what I will post each day, but it should be fun.

For me, storytelling is a sacred act, and I can’t corral my muse into any of these …. “How to Write a Novel in 10 Easy Steps” Ways of working.
I honestly think that we can learn from each other, but in the end…we must each find our own way. And I also believe that writing isn’t easy. It’s hard and demanding and it hurts like hell more often than not. But it is also … The best way I have found to spend my days and thereby spend my life.

For me, stories always begin in the dark. They begin with a voice that I can barely hear but that somehow wakes me in the night. Sometimes, it takes me a long while to figure out what language they are speaking.

For the story to make it to the page, the voice must be strong enough to cut through my fear.

There is a woman whispering to me, now.
She has a tale a tell.
Send us strength to tell it true.

May your words flow today (and always).

Go easy~p

PS: If you’d like to chat about writing or the 3DNC, please leave a comment below or drop me a line. Or better yet, don’t get stuck with just me to yap with – come and join us over in the 3 Day Novel Contest 2015 Chatzone over on AbeBooks.

2 Comments on “Courting the Muse: Learning to listen to your Self in the face of all those “How to Write a Novel in Ten Easy Steps!” tipsters

  1. Hi Pam,
    I so needed this today:

    For the story to make it to the page, the voice must be strong enough to cut through my fear.

    Thanks, and good luck!


    • Hey Dionne – WOOOOT!
      So glad to hear this.
      Heck I NEEDED TO HEAR THIS TODAY – and I just wrote it a few days ago. Sheesh.

      Happy scribblin’ Darlin.

      go easy ~p

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