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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Unmasking the Muse | Lisa Cron, Writer Unboxed

This article includes an excerpt from a new book, Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, by Lisa Cron.

Cron begins by revealing "the Myth of the Muse." She writes:
Writers are often led to believe that the muse is responsible for unleashing, not to mention guiding, their creativity. They’re told to tap into the force, write down to the bone, court the muse for all they’re worth, and if they’re lucky, the notoriously capricious muse will speak through them and bring their prose to life.
But she says the muse "undermines writers at every turn."  She writes:
[T]he myth of the muse encourages writers to fly blind. To write whatever is in their heart, and somehow the muse will transform it into a story. As someone who spent the latter part of her career reading the novels and screenplays that such advice has yielded, I can tell you that it’s not only bad advice, it’s heartbreaking. 
That myth instills in writers either a sense of entitlement or a sense of inferiority. And both can lead to writer's block.

Cron provides some advice on how to escape the "terrible fate" of the muse: "How do you outwit the muse? Unmask her."

Ultimately, Cron writes:
The muse in the basement is you. And that inspired creativity? That’s you, too. You are, as the erstwhile Wizard confessed to Dorothy, the man behind the curtain.
And she provides some hands-on advice, provided here in bullets:
  • Take the time to ask “why” of everything in your story. 
  • Then ruthlessly edit it. 
  • Don’t polish. Don’t prettify sentences. 
  • Forget about the sound of the words, concentrate on their meaning.
  • Make sure that everything in your story is there for a story reason. 
  • Repeat, again and again, draft after draft. 
Following those steps, Cron writes, is the only way to earn "the very last step in the writing process — polishing what has survived the knife."


This article is featured in today's (June 6) Write Style paper, available at the Editorial Style tab above.

For more related advice, check out Garbl's Writing Process Links. It's an annotated directory of websites that can help you follow the steps in the writing process, such as prewriting, research, drafting, editing, revising, proofreading and publishing. 

A separate directory there features websites that can help you prevent or defeat Writer's Block.

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