Friday, October 12, 2007

How I Write: My Chatty Muse

Authors differ widely in how they write. My method would drive some crazy. Take what you can use; flush the rest. I'll write this piece slowly, a bit at a time. So come back occasionally if you want more.

Where I Get My Ideas

I have a chatty muse.

Sometimes she bugs me relentlessly, feeding me ideas rapid fire while I'm driving, cooking, lifting weights or mowing. While I'm writing one manuscript, she taunts me by offering juicy morsels for other articles or books or Websites.

I never stifle her. (You don't want to offend your muse!) Instead, I'm never without paper and pen, a recorder, or a computer file to capture her musings. Ideas accumulate much faster than I could ever shape them into articles or books. I'm sure I'll die with hundreds of ideas that never see the printed page.

I'm not complaining. I can't recall any instance of writer's block in a lifetime of writing. Not one. My most difficult decisions involve what ideas to cut. (Remember, I write almost exclusively nonfiction. Writer's block may be more of a fiction-specific disease.)

Perhaps my muse is chatty because I feed her so well. I'm more reader than writer, more learner than teacher. In every conversation with both the "small" and the "great" (I find everyone to be my intellectual superior in some way), I'm driven by insatiable curiosity.

I read a wide variety of well-researched, well-written biographies and other factual books on a wide range of subjects. A healthy diet makes for a healthy muse. A healthy muse is a chatty muse.

Spiritually-minded readers may take offence to my giving the glory to my muse rather than to God. Actually, I consider it more offensive to attribute all my ideas to God, as some do. Since some of my "great" ideas are proven idiotic by later reflection or sound criticism, I hesitate to ever say dogmatically, "God gave me this idea."

Don't get me wrong. I believe that God is the source of all wisdom. But I also believe that we often err in distinguishing God's ideas from our own. The prophet Jeremiah blasted people for declaring "Thus saith the LORD" when He'd not spoken. Thus, I shy from routinely saying, "God told me," when the idea may later prove to be more ignorant than inspired.

Rather, I pray constantly for God's wisdom, humbly thanking Him for the great ideas, but attributing initial ideas to my muse with a little "m", which encompasses the ideas gleaned from others, my own reasoning, and the promptings of God's Spirit.