So… I’m doing this blog thing for the very first time, and I have mentioned to various people in various places that I was worried I would have nothing to say, which everybody seemed to think was very funny, but really, it’s a worry.

It seems that the more I try and think of something interesting to say about writing the less I have to say. Does that mean writing is not very interesting? Well, most of the time it isn’t, no, but some of the time it is. One of the most exciting, though possibly not so interesting, parts of writing is employing a muse, and it just so happens that this is what is on mind at the moment, so, I’ve decided to start by talking about the muse (calm down, calm down, I’m not going to start talking about Muse!).

As many people may already know, I don’t plan my writing, I let it happen. That doesn’t mean I only write when I feel like it, I’d hardly ever write anything if I did that. Another writer once said to me that he was a big believer in letting the muse come to him and if that didn’t happen he would just go to the pub. On this particular day I was struggling with writing more than two words and going to the pub instead really did seem like a better option, however, while he might have spent another afternoon in the pub I stuck it out at the computer and ended up writing a good few pages. Some people call this bum glue. Or just determination. The point is, if I waited for the muse to come to me I wouldn’t write half as much as I do.

Now, this is a tricky one because some parts of writing fiction don’t require the muse, but the early stages, perhaps the parts when the more organised writers are doing that thing they call planning, does. If I am two thirds of the way through writing a novel I don’t really need my muse anymore, in fact he/she has drifted away by then to get on with their lives and the character has emerged as a separate being from the person I started out with for inspiration. But any earlier on in the process I usually do need them. And if they don’t come to me of their own accord, then some gentle persuasion can be used to make them. Looking at photos, listening to music, trawling the internet for interesting news stories or, my favourite, spending a little time in the presence of someone who you would like to become your muse!

So, who are they? Well, obviously I’m not going to tell you who mine actually are! But a muse can be a place I’ve been that I’ve loved, for instance I’ve written a novel and two short stories and some articles based on the time I’ve spent in the Lake District, or it can be family members, friends, or someone I’ve fallen in love with. Some of my characters are five people rolled into one with bits of each of them in there, some are one ‘real’ person, who I have so transferred to the page only the name is different. It has to be someone or something that I want to think about a lot. Only by thinking about someone or somewhere pretty constantly for a while will allow them to become part of the writing, part of the story, because I am carrying them with me, along with the story, which all the time is emerging around them. If I didn’t do this, writing becomes ‘flat’ and boring, and if it’s boring for you as the writer, it is most certainly boring for the reader.

Philip Pullman once answered the dreaded question ‘where do you get your ideas from’ by saying ‘sitting and thinking’ and that’s basically it. There are a thousand things to distract you from this, including going to the pub (although you need those things as well or you’d have no experiences to write about, but perhaps that’s a blog for another day!) So, I suppose, if you just love to sit and think about blancmange (I know, but it’s the first thing that came into my head), then that’s your muse and that’s what you’ll end up writing about. Or, if like that other writer I mentioned, you go to the pub every time the muse doesn’t come to you, you might not write anything at all, or you might just write about being in pubs, which might not be so bad….

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