Hunt Your Muse and Hang Her Head on Your Wall

Matt tells me he’s almost finished with the first draft of the sequel to Kingmaker. I’m looking forward to reading it. I’d like to think my editors at Onyx Path Publishing feel the same way when I turn in the first draft of an assignment – that sense that while you didn’t mine the gold you can still be excited by the prospect of refining and shaping it. Rough drafts tend to be, well, rough. I fixate on producing the cleanest drafts I can, but I always miss things – an awkward turn of phrase, a darling, a few hundred dashes of the wrong length. Editing combines the excitement of reading something new with the joy of writing.

I’m currently heavily in output mode. These things come in cycles with me. Sometimes I spend days or weeks consuming content – movies, TV shows, books, music, all the Wikipedia, etc. At times like this I have trouble remembering to turn on an audiobook during my commute, and then my mind wanders and I have no idea what I’ve been reading for the last hour. I can manage the TV series Community (light and fun with short episodes) and *maybe* a humourous retelling of myths called Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes. I have Nicolas Nickleby on audio, but Dickens is apparently completely incomprehensible to me at the moment.

Long experience, um, managing my creativity tells me this will eventually turn around. I will fall in love with a book again or devour a TV show or listen in rapt attention to new music. This blog has kind of become the wood chipper into which I feed all the stuff I absorb from week to week. A steady diet of media gives me something to talk about without sounding like the writerbot reporting its daily word count.

One show I’m particularly eager to see on the air again is Face-Off – the SyFy show in which special effects make-up artists compete in challenges to make amazing robot/zombie/alien/monster/demon make-ups. Part of the appeal is the make-ups themselves. I’ve never been a particularly craftsy geek, but I appreciate the amount of work that cosplayers put into their costumes at sci-fi conventions. Face-Off takes the cosplay wow and cranks it up to 11, which scratches that itch.

I also love the culture of the show. The competitors help each other out – provide encouragement, offer sincere praise, or add some muscle to the often nail-biting task of opening a stuck mold. In a moment of genius the show’s creators decided to encourage this professional/cooperative streak by making the final challenge of the show (a showdown between three competitors) a team challenge. Each finalist chooses two people who were eliminated earlier in the season, and while the finalists provide the direction, they absolutely cannot win the game unless their assistants pull together and work just as hard as they do. The competitor you help in this challenge might be the one you need to help you when you get to the finals, and that dynamic makes interpersonal drama and cutthroat competition not only in bad taste but actually likely to kill your chances of winning the contest. The show becomes all awesome effects make-up and virtually no stupid distractions.

Another great joy I derive from this show is their ability to take absolutely any concept thrown their way and instantly derive inspiration from it. The judges decree “demon, Neptune, blue, go!” or “spider, superhero, 1920s, go!” and whoever gets that assignment dives in and starts sketching a concept with gusto. These are not people who sit around and moan that they’re just not inspired by the seeds they’ve been given. They take those beans and they turn them into stalks that stretch to the heavens. They enter every week’s contest with enthusiasm, a clear vision of what they intend to create, and the means to bring it to life on the stage. Oh sure, once in awhile someone will start out a challenge a bit creatively blocked, but people who don’t know how to shake that kind of funk in a hurry won’t last long, so most of the competitors get over it pretty quickly.

This last appeals to me so much because it has been my experience that this is how you must function if you want to get paid to write on a fairly regular basis. Novelists can tinker a bit. I’ve done plenty of that (and will continue to do so), but even so co-authorship means I’m used to taking Matt’s ideas and playing with them enthusiastically. And a freelancer? You take the core ideas you are given and you run with them as hard and as far as you can. I’m proud of my ability to say “let other writers have their pick of the sections, assign me whatever else you need written, and I’ll find the enthusiasm I need to turn in a solid draft filled with good ideas – and I’ll have it done on time every assignment.” The Muse doesn’t come to me anymore. I don’t get paid for the days I don’t spend writing, so I don’t have time to languish in a creative funk. If she doesn’t show up on schedule I hunt her down and hang her prizes on my trophy wall. Those heads on the wall will never tell anyone which of them put up a fight and which took a bullet through the brain while they were drinking from a brook. If I’m doing my job right no one can tell the difference between the two.

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One Response to Hunt Your Muse and Hang Her Head on Your Wall

  1. Pingback: Current Writing Maxim: BEAR – K.M. Clantoren

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