As I announced the recent release of my latest novel Tribal Malfunctions a friend said they admired my prolific output. I was humbled and gratified. Also puzzled to a degree.
But they were right, for sure. As of this writing I’m about to finish issue 3 of my comic Bunnyhead which I write, draw and color myself. I’m figuring out which songs are going on two albums due out in the beginning of next year (2019). I’m working on issue #4 of Bunnyhead and have also written the script for a new comic about a gangster. Oh and I started writing prose for the first time in a long while last night and it looks like that will become a full blown novel.
Yeah that’s kinda prolific.
Also kind of insane.
I guess you could say I’ve learned to tame and use my muse instead of it being the other way around. I’ve long held the belief instilled in me by Mary Robinette Kowal that your muse isn’t in control of you like some flighty spirit; your muse is in fact a muscle that needs to be exercised and developed to work best for you and not you for it.
And I’ve done that to a degree. If the rest of my body looked like my writing muscle I’d look as ripped as Matthew McGonaughey in Magic Mike. I’m working on that but anyway I’ve got a solid writing muscle and know how to use it. In fact I daresay I’ve gotten it so well-tuned and adjusted that I don’t need to work it as regularly as I used to in order to make it work. I’m not saying I’m Tolstoy up in this piece but I’m pretty good at banging out the words as needed on time and within the limits prescribed.
While currently not professionaly published I have self-published five novels to date - in addition to the comics - and written at least two dozen short stories (They’re all making the rounds and my Pulitzer and Hugo acceptance speeches are constantly being finetuned and updated). By my own estimation that’s put me at over half a million words. And since I’ve been doing this writing thing hardcore for the last ten years…
Well I’m not going to call myself a master per se but let’s just say I know how to put a sentence together.
But back to the prolific thing.
As I said I’ve gotten to the point where I can write as needed. The muse does strike though more often than not I must sit and work storylines and plotholes out like knots in wood or lumps in gravy. I keep notes on story ideas and works in progress so they’re readily available when needed. I don’t need the muse to srike but when it does I go to work with quite a bit more charge and fervor than usual.
When the muse does strike hard it’s weird. For instance this new story I’m working on came to me as the germ of an idea from a single line. From that line I saw an image, a scene I could write about. I let it run around in my head for a bit before I felt I could write in a few sentences after it. Once I started that first line the next couple sentences came with a little coaxing. Then the first paragraph was done. The next paragraph came a little easier. And the one after that a little moreso. Before long I had a page and was digging where I was headed. 3,500 words later I had the beginning of a new novel. Hot damn!
But it’s not always like that. In fact sometimes it’s a drag.
The best way I can describe it is… Well there’s this movie from 1971 called Cold Turkey with Dick Van Dyke about a small town in Iowa that quits smoking. And there’s this one scene where DVD is at the breakfast table chewing carrot sticks to fight off the urge to smoke. He’s listening to the radio and this show is on and - well here’s the link to it. Just watch and listen.
So that’s me and my muse: Dick Van Dyke banging his redhead wife to keep from smoking! I never said I was classy (By the way that’s Bob & Ray playing the radio annoncer and guest!). But it really illistrates my image of how it works when a story or idea grips me. It’s with an almost grim determination that I have to do my duty to my craft, get up off my ass and go write or draw or what have you. I love it, I love the feeling of being inspired enough to create while at the same time it can be a little daunting. There are times when I’d rather be doing something else or need to get something else done but the story or comic is beckoning. And I know that despite training, working, developing and flexing my muse I really can’t do anything else but give in, let it take me upstairs and do with me what it needs to do to get things done.
Maybe I should take up smoking?
Nah. The muse is stronger without it.
Now if you’l excuse me I have to go make up a few thousand words about an imaginary thing.