Tag Archives: Brainstorming

Chasing the Muse

Hello everyone, it is I, your friendly, anti-social, media hermit. You may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything—you may also have noticed that I’ve said something similar to this before. Well, it was true then and truer now, and the reason for it remains the same: there’s very little to write about—oh—and I feel about as comfortable interacting socially with people as I do in those nightmares where I’m naked in school, giving a presentation I cannot remember in front of the entire school and its three neighboring schools. Those two things combined, usually keep me too busy fighting low-grade anxiety attacks to remember to write a blog. But a notification that my wordpress subscription was up for renewal, reminded me that, “Oh, crap, I have a blog,” and so, I decided to reach out and touch base with you all.

As previously stated, nothing has changed. I’ve been trying to work on a revamped version of an old story idea for the last couple of months and have been running into several problems with it that have left me baffled and highly frustrated. Both emotions come from my inability to figure out what is wrong with the story. I was very excited about it at first; the muse had swept over me fervently, and I had been eager to delve into the new story. However, that enthusiasm fizzled rather quickly, despite my desire and eagerness to write. I spent more time mulling over the dilemma, trying to reason out what was wrong with this new story, than actually writing. Was it the characters? The plot? The writing? The tense? The genre? The worldbuilding? Something was wrong, that much was obvious, but since I couldn’t understand what, I moved on to something different.

Three different things, to be exact. I opened an old, unpublished story and set to work rereading it with the hope of finding plot holes to fix and places where I could strengthen the prose. On top of that, I started writing two other stories, one for which I had a moderately detailed but not yet finished outline and one for which I had no outline at all. My thought here was that I could use the old novel as busy work, kickstarting the old imagination while I essentially did some free writing with the other ideas, allowing my mind to roam in a far less restricted environment. And it worked.

For about a chapter each. Then it all fell apart. I didn’t just get hit with writer’s block, I got hockey checked by Thor’s hammer with writer’s block. Again, I was stuck trying to figure out why.

And it took me a while, but I think I finally figured it out. After some soul searching, I realized the problem is me. You see, I never wanted to write a story with magic or powers or supernatural things. I wanted to write a story about an unhappy kid who was given his opportunity to rise to greatness, wrapped in a fantasy story with magic and powers and all sort of amazing supernatural things. Almost every story I’ve ever written has been some variation of that—the wrapping was different, but at its heart, it was the same story.

It’s a story that’s been done to death, but more importantly, it’s a story that’s been done to death brilliantly and in many, many, many, many incarnations by already established writers: Terry Brooks, Karen Miller, Brandon Sanderson, just to name a few. Under the shadow of these literary giants, I struggle to find a version of the story that is uniquely my own. The problem is, I’m not sure that’s the story I want to write anymore. That was the story of an unpopular kid, fighting depression through fantasy stories, wistfully hoping that someday in the future, he’d become someone better than he felt he was. I’m not that kid anymore, and hence, that’s not my story; I know that. What I don’t know is, what my new story is.

So that’s my problem. Because I can’t just write any old story with an interesting plot, that’s never been how I write. Every story has to have something personal, something of me in it. Until then, Thor’s hammer continues to knock my imagination unconscious, and I am left wading through my soul, searching for that story that defines me, so that I might find the path to inspiration again. Until then, I guess it’s trial and error for me.

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First Date: A Brainstorming Love Story

Think back to the first time you asked out a girl or boy you really liked. Remember that feeling of anticipation and excitement, as you got ready to begin a journey with someone. Remember that nervous feeling in your stomach that warned you things might end disastrously for both of you. Well, every time I embark on a new writing endeavor, I–and most likely other writers at large–experience a similar mixture of elation, fear, concern and hopefulness.

So while I have not had to dive in the the real life dating world since I met my wonderful wife, I am currently–and have done so many times in the past–dating a new story idea. And like all first dates, the emotions are running high and I am very excited about all the possibilities that are presented before me. I imagine a future in which me and my idea grow so close that I know its thoughts like my own, can sense its moods and guide it, effortlessly, toward mutual satisfaction. Maybe, if I’m very lucky, the two of us will make the decision to produce sequels, smaller, little version of our first coupling, that will keep our love and our story growing, ensuring that we stay together longer.

That’s one possible future. But like real first dates–as least as of the last time I engaged in one almost two decades ago–there’s also the potential for disaster. The excitement could turn to anxiety, the connection felt could shrivel up and become toxic, or the flow of communication could degrade into a bramble-infested, broken cobblestone road of frustration. It could produce nothing but stress, a gnawing sense of failure and a lack of self-worth.

And then there’s the small problem of cheating. At this point, I feel it necessary to separate the analogy from the subject at hand, for I do not advocate cheating on one’s spouse or significant other. However, when speaking of the creative process, it is not always easy for every artist to stay on the straight and narrow with their craft. Each artist thrives in a different environment, and this is just my opinion.

When a you start a romantic attachment to one story it’s usually customary to stay focused on that story. After all, you don’t want to take the attention away from the first story so you can canoodle with a newer, shinier story, sneaking brainstorm sessions, jotting little notes in between chapters of your older, more established story. It’s important to stay virtuous and true to that first story…but the new story is so appealing and fun, and it gets you like no other story ever got you before.

When faced with that situation, you must sit down with your first story and do some honest evaluating of your relationship. Does it need constant attention, or is it okay with a scaling down that time?  Can you satisfy both stories properly or will one have to fade into the background? In some cases, and I hope it is true in this case, spending time with a new story can be a great pallet cleanser, washing away old literary habits and the staleness of one’s relationship in order to come back to it with a new prospective.

Ultimately, only time with tell, but until I find out, I intend to treat both stories with the dignity and respect they deserve, and hope they’ll take good care of me in return.