My Muse Took An Extended Vacation
I haven’t met a writer yet who hasn’t lost her muse at some point in her writing career. Often stress plays a huge part in sabotaging our creative mind. Whether it’s family related, job, finances, or simply a bad day, our muse can cut out on us without notice.
Since I began writing 30 years ago, my creativity has stalled three times. But the most recent began nearly 4 years back when I left a publisher amid controversy that exploded and spread like wildfire throughout the internet writing community. After that, I had difficulty creating anything resembling a plot. And my heroes or heroines usually suffered through an identity crisis.
After Carina and the Nobleman, the first book in my medieval psychic sisters trilogy, was released in January 2009, I was faced with writing book two. I had already written Carina years before, so a little rewriting and editing was all I did before submitting. This book was set in Italy, my comfort zone. But book two, Charlotte and the Gypsy, took place in a Gypsy camp in Andalusia. I knew absolutely nothing about either of these subjects. For the first time, I doubted every word I wrote and couldn’t keep the facts straight. I researched heavily as I wrote, which I normally don’t do. No matter how hard I tried to summon up ideas, it seemed as if I faced the same blank page every day.
Seven months later, I completed the book. (I’d never taken longer than 3 months to write a full-length novel.) During those long months, I pulled my hair out one strand at a time, wondering if I was the same person who wrote Charlotte and the books published under my name. After stepping away for a few weeks before reading the entire story, to my surprise, book two wasn’t bad at all. It sold and was released in early 2010.
Now on to book three, or so I thought. In researching Callie and the Knight, my muse took a hike. I turned over every rock (figuratively, of course), checked under the beds (shouldn’t have, found an army of dust bunnies), constantly returned to my computer (a big mistake, 1000s of emails and packed files to go through), and finally I threw in the towel…well, more like the pen and paper. I’d have thrown my computer, but thankfully my common sense shouted, “NO!!!”
Now what? Why was I having such a difficult time thinking up a viable story? Besides the fact that my mind had been cluttered horribly, book three is set in medieval England. Way out of my comfort zone. I’m used to weaving stories set in the same period but in Italy. So I decided to put it aside and pull out three manuscripts to edit and polish. Because they’d been on floppy disks, I had to retype them onto a flash drive, which was time-consuming, but it helped to reacquaint me with the stories. To my absolute shock, one sold in July 2010. The other two, the first two books in my Italian medieval series (The Lily and the Falcon and Surrender to Honor) sold in a two-book deal in September 2010. The month prior, I’d resold Charlotte and the Gypsy to a different publisher.
Okay, now I can concentrate on Callie and the Knight. It didn’t happen. As before, I dragged my feet. You’d think all that editing and rewriting would have tickled my muse. That was when I realized, she’d gone on a very long vacation without me. When 2011 arrived, I gave up and turned to another manuscript I’d written years before, Dante’s Flame, book three in my Italian medieval series. I submitted it, and two months later it sold. Wow, I must be good at editing and rewriting. Okay, now I was ready to get to Callie and her story. I really had to finish up the trilogy and not leave my readers hanging. The end of the book brings the three sisters together to learn about their past. I didn’t want to leave it like a TV series that ended without tying up all the loose ends. I tried everything I could think of to convince my muse to come back to me. The damn stubborn twit stood in the distance and folded her arms across her chest like a defiant child and wouldn’t budge. Then she took off again.
Fine. I’ll work on something else. At that time, my editor asked if I’d like to participate in an anthology titled Love Letters. I jumped on the invitation, eager and ready. A short story was the perfect way to get back into writing a book from scratch. Ha! You guessed it. I struggled to come up with a storyline. The first three-quarters of the story was more painful than having a tooth pulled, but the medieval Italy setting was a big help. By the time I finished and turned it in (10,000 words over), lo and behold, my muse sauntered back, relaxed, tanned and excited to dive into a new book. And she came back wiser. I finally saw the reason I kept putting off Callie’s story. She and her knight weren’t ready to tell it. My muse isn’t back 100%; she’s tripped a few times, but it doesn’t matter. I really missed her and was relieved to have her with me again.
The fact that I had sold four full-length novels in nine months wasn’t what nudged my muse. There were several reasons, one life-changing.
- Yes, Callie and her knight needed more time. So did I. Medieval England is out of my comfort zone. Once I came to terms with that, I could move on, knowing I will write their story one day. Just not now.
- I turned to researching Tempt Not My Heart, book four of my Italian medieval series. I should be ready to begin writing next month. I’ve been jotting down scenes that pop into my mind. Ahhh, I feel at home already.
- My biggest challenge, and the most disturbing to me, was the strangling hold my guilt and frustration had over me because I’d done nothing about my weight or my diabetes. But my renewed enthusiasm and resurgence of those much needed creative juices came when I began to lose weight in February and continued to lose a lot more since. My blood sugar is under control for the first time in 15 years (I was taken off one of my meds.), my blood pressure is great (cut back to half a pill a day), and my cholesterol is where it should be. My energy level is high. I don’t nap anymore. I get out of bed early without wishing I could just crawl back under the covers and sleep all day.
What I’m trying to convey here is, an attitude adjustment goes a long way to free your mind (or at least ease it) of the worry and stress weighing it down. No longer am I burdened with the guilt I mentioned above. Neither am I fighting with my once non-existent willpower. The self-destructive person I was just nine months ago is gone. I’ll be 60 next year. I’m proof that it’s never too late to change what doesn’t work for you, be it a personal issue, ideas for a story you’d like to write, or merely seeing there is an upside to life. I’m not saying it’s easy. We all cope in different ways. But you’ll never regret your journey down the new road with a rejuvenated you.
As for my muse? We’re still getting reacquainted, but she’s no longer a stranger.
Buy Link for The Lily and the Falcon:
Wow, what a fantastically inspiring account, Jannine! I'll never moan about my missing muse again - and four books sold in nine months?? You must be thrilled! I'm sure my readers and visitors will have LOTS of comments, lol!