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Getting abused by your muse—is there a helpline for that?

Here I sit, in front of yet another blank page and I want to write. I know my characters, I know the main plot points and I want the words to pour forth, like they do for so many of my prolific writing friends...and here I sit, in front of a blank page.

I strain my brain, abuse my muse and ponder an unpalatable question: Am I really a writer?

Yes, I love putting words together. But getting them onto the page is such a tortuous process. Surely true artistic creativity shouldn’t be like planting a seed and then waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the first tiny shoot to poke up its head. Shouldn’t a writer produce words like a magician’s bouquet, magically sprouting its splendiferous colours with no apparent effort? 

Many believe ‘the writing is in the rewriting’, and that’s what I’d like to believe, to appease that incessant inner Doubting Thomasina. But there she sits, on my shoulder, or on top of the laptop screen, swinging her legs and saying in that whiney voice ‘if you’re a writer – where are the words?’  And I sit in front of that blank page.

Once words are on the page I’m in my element. I’d happily tweak and polish, add and delete ad infinitum if I didn’t stop myself. But don’t people become writers because they have stories that are burning to be told, not because they see words as puzzle pieces that need arranging and rearranging? 

Sure, I come up with story ideas, but the characters don’t talk to me, they don’t dictate which way their story goes. They leave that all up to me while my muse shakes her head and makes with the ‘zipped lips’ thing (she’s definitely in cahoots with Doubting Thomasina). 

In practical terms I can say I’m a writer because I do eventually get the words on the page, have placed in a couple of competitions and have had a few short stories published. In personal terms I struggle with saying the word. Because it all comes so slowly, and it’s probably a self-fulfilling prophecy that I’m going to do a lot of staring into space, I don’t have the compulsion (which I know so many writers do have) to just sit and write the day away. If only it were that easy. 

But I’ve written, with varying degrees of dedication, from my early teens, and I don’t intend stopping any time soon. If the day comes when the words (not necessarily good words, just words) pour from my mind and onto the page with the force of an unstoppable avalanche — I might feel justified in calling myself a writer.