Everyone has at least one muse, your source of inspiration that helps fuel and harness your passion. Some have many – cooking muse, poetry muse, music muse, writing muse, plumbing muse. Hey, why not? I figure a plumber can also have a muse that inspires them to…er…plumb.
Last night, whilst waiting to enter dreamland, a Sleep Demon prodded me with a question: “Hey Dave? Over here. Where do muses come from?”
Thankfully that was the only question from those pesky little critters, and it was waiting for an answer when I woke up this morning. A muse can come from anywhere, though it seems some folks spend a great deal of time searching for that special muse to cast a ray of inspiration into their lives.
Meet Paddington, my editing muse.
Paddington sits on my desk next to my screen.
He’s a happy little chap. He doesn’t have much to say when I’m writing as he prefers to watch with keen interest. However, he can be quite vocal when I’m editing, chipping in with suggestions or comments and reminding me that the words are on the screen not on the wall or the ceiling.
He can be pretty infuriating at times.
Don’t let that cute innocent face fool you.
See those pockets? He keeps his notepad and pencil in them.
I wouldn’t blame you for thinking I was a few clowns short of a circus. But it’s okay. I’m a writer. My circus has a full complement of clowns so you can breathe easy, dear blog reader. And they never stray very far or for very long. Paddington makes sure of that.
Dragging this tangent back to its origin, there’s a reason why Paddington helps me edit.
He’s my oldest friend.
Awww, cute right?
Paddington has always been there.
When I was a kid I had a bedside lamp with a circular shade and a tiny swing for Paddington to sit on. Now I think about it he sat directly above the light bulb which is something of a safety hazard really. This was before the Health & Safety Police encased us in bubble wrap because we’re too stupid to think for ourselves.
Every night I’d give him a gentle push and we’d read a book together. He scowled with me when Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge gave James a hard time. He journeyed through Middle Earth with me as we followed Bilbo’s adventure. He cheered with me when the BFG helped capture the giants.
Throughout the era of Transformer action figures, LEGO, Star Wars, video games and a plethora of assorted childhood toys, he sat on my shelf and watched, smiling and content he that was never forgotten. Every time I moved home, he came with me, always positioned close to my bed so we could share a story before dreamland.
Paddington and I have shared a story every day since I was about 5 or 6.
That’s around 32 years, give or take, where I’ve journeyed to Imaginationland with one constant companion. He’s grown up with me, and if you’ve seen the movie, Ted, you’ll get the idea. Yet, he remains a lovable bear with passion for marmalade sandwiches and a curious if slightly cheeky nature.
Conversations with my muse.
Writers have multiple personalities. I talk to my characters when I’m writing, more so when they start acting up. I slouch in my chair, frown at the screen and say: “Did you really want to do that?” or “Yeah, I see what you want to do but let’s try it my way for a bit and see what happens, okay?”
That’s normal isn’t it?
I have a similar relationship with Paddington. He spent years soaking up my thoughts, aspirations, hopes and dreams. Over the last ten years or so he’s become an excellent sounding board. When I ask my characters questions, they don’t always answer, which is annoying.
So I turn to Paddington.
“Should Samantha help them or go after the bad guy?” I’ll ask him.
Sometimes I’ll sit patiently, finger tips pressed against my lips or hovering over the keyboard. Other times I’ll slump in my chair, exasperated, staring at the ceiling, walls and floor, seeking inspiration without the words on the screen glaring at me.
My eyes settle on Paddington.
He’s been there right from the start when I took my first steps into Imaginationland. He’s as much a part of me as my big toe. Every story we’ve shared has helped shape and cement our bond.
Paddington represents my inner writer. He takes notes for me, silently watching and listening as I talk.
“She’d help them first,” I tell him.
Fingers on keyboard and words move on the screen – delete, copy, paste, add a few lines here, subtract a couple further down, adjust the pace, tone, dialogue.
That pause for reflection can work wonders.
A moment ago I sat back in chair, placed my hands on my head and considered how to write this line.
Paddington knows when I’m blogging I like to go with my gut and tell it like it is. As a muse he’s pretty cool. We don’t always get along though, and when that happens I find I need to count how many clowns are left in my circus.
“Bad guys don’t talk like that, do they?” I ask him.
They do if you want them to.
“But that’s Hollywood bullshit and not realistic.”
You’re writing a story about an apocalypse, Dave.
“A realistic apocalypse. Anyway that’s not even the focus, Paddington. It’s what comes after that matters.”
If you were the bad guy, what would you say?
The worn out brim of Paddington’s hat distracts me for a moment.
“Yes? Oh, right, the bad guys. But I wouldn’t be the bad guy.”
From their point of view Samantha is the bad guy. Think about it, then do some editing so I can eat my marmalade sandwich in peace.
Muses can be elusive creatures.
I’m not sure I can reach a solid conclusion that sums up my relationship with Paddington. There are many ways to seek out your muse – go for a walk, visit the gym, people watch, watch a movie, read a book…and so on.
I’m lucky to have Paddington. We’ve shared many adventures together and he’s a constant reminder that I although I have a lifetime membership to Imaginationland, I have work to keep it.
Writing is pure joy. Editing is both a pleasure and a huge pain in the butt. Getting the words on the screen is one thing, monkey’s can do it, but scraping away the junk to reveal the good stuff can be hard, albeit rewarding.
Sometimes the editing process feels like a massive chore. At the moment I’m running through another draft of my novel, The Range. Occasionally I cringe at the errors highlighted by my beta readers. I don’t always agree with their feedback, but it’s damn handy having someone on the outside who can see the entire forest, whereas I’m surrounded by trees.
Concluding the conclusion.
Paddington is my muse. His light of inspiration spans years of reading and writing.
Editing…well, it hurts my brain, but in a beautiful and fulfilling way.
Imaginationland is open to everyone, you just have to step on the path and head for the gates.
Inspiration and muses, like love, are often found in the most unlikely of places.
On the subject of editing, check out this guest post on catherineryanhoward.com by Robert Doran – Copy-editors: What They Really Do. Fabulous insight into what goes into copy-editing.