Brain Babies: Embrace Your Muse

I like a lot of different kinds of music. In fact, the only kinds I’m not much fond of are Country and Opera, and there are exceptions there: I rather like “The Rodeo Song” and “Carmina Burana” for example. Everyone has different tastes. That’s what makes the world such a wonderfully rich and diverse place. You might love Country music but find the song I mentioned incredibly offensive, vulgar and sophomoric (I mean…it is. That’s what I like about it). You might love Opera but find Carmina Burana to be overly dramatic (though, let’s be honest here: pretty much all Opera is overly dramatic). You might think music from the 1980s is trite and obnoxious. If that’s the case, I’m afraid we can no longer be friends. That’s my era. It might be about nuclear war and rampant disease, but, damn it, you can dance to it!

The point is: the people making music have this passion they pour into it. They want to show the world the tune in their hearts. They know not everyone is going to like what they’re doing. Yet they put it out there, hoping it will resonate with someone, anyone. And this is exactly what we, as writers, need to be doing too.

Write the thing that pushes against your brain. The story that niggles at you, won’t let you sleep as you lay there, tossing, turning, sweating, fretting. The dark, nasty, little tale you’re dead certain will alienate friends and readers alike. The sweet, romantic romp that won’t leave you alone until you commit it to the page. Write what drives you. Write what makes your blood sing.

Do not, and I cannot stress this enough, write to sell. Do not write the popular thing (by the time it’s published, odds are it won’t be popular anymore). Do not write what you think people want to read. I know that sounds counterintuitive; it’s not. Of course, we want readers. We want people to get eyes on our work. But here’s the thing: if you try to write to please everyone, your work will be bland, washed out, boring. And boring? That’s the kiss of death.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: write the story you want to read. The story you wish someone had already written. Listen to your muse. They know what they’re about.

Speaking of, you’re not always going to have the muse leaning over your shoulder, whispering sweet, sweet ideas into your ear. Sometimes, you have to do the work on your own. You have to plant your butt in the seat and force the words onto the page. Sometimes, this is unbelievably difficult, I know. Sometimes, you just can’t. You stare at the screen or the paper and nothing comes. I get it. The best thing to do in those awful moments is to push the pen across the page anyway. Tap the keys. Whatever medium you’re using. Get the words out. They might be terrible words. Reading them later, you might cringe. But, here’s the thing: there might be a sentence in there, or even just part of one, where you strike gold. That makes it worthwhile. And here’s the best part: the more you do this, forcing the words out, the easier it gets. Pretty soon, you carve out five minutes from your busy day and you write a page of damn fine prose. You create a poem that, while maybe not rhyming yet or be quite on with the meter, has some gorgeous imagery. It speaks to you.

These are the baby steps you have to take in order to get to a place where the muse is there at your beck and call. Where the whisper is in your ear anytime you’re ready to listen. Because, I’ll let you in a little secret here: the muse is you. Your mind. Your subconscious. You’re inspiring yourself. Surprise.

So, yeah. Listen to the word music in your head. Whether it’s a catchy pop song, an intricate symphony, or a funeral dirge. Doesn’t matter. Someone out there wants to listen to it. Your music will resonate with some person. Hopefully, several people. Maybe hundreds, thousands, millions of people.

Doesn’t really matter how many are impacted by your voice. If even just one person is moved by something you wrote, you’ve accomplished something amazing. Words have power. Remember when you were a kid and you read something that blew your mind? Remember when an author scrambled your perception of the world and shook reality to the core? You can do that for a reader.

Keep plugging away, my friends. Put the words down. Make the music that is story. Don’t do this because you want to become rich or famous (even if you do want that; there’s nothing wrong with it). Do this because you have something to say. Do this because you must. Because your muse won’t let you do otherwise. Because you must.

Keep writing. You never know whose life you’re going to change. Even if it’s yours.

Thanks for listening.

Ken MacGregor

Ken MacGregor’s work has appeared in a whole mess of anthologies and magazines. His story collection, “An Aberrant Mind” is available online and in select bookstores. He edits an annual horror-themed anthology for the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. Ken is an Affiliate member of HWA. One time, he even made a zombie movie. Recently, he co-wrote a novel and is working on the sequel. Ken lives in Michigan with his family and two cats, one of whom is dead but still haunts the place.

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