#IWSG: The Humbling of a Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re a writer and if you feel insecure, then this is the support group for you.  Click here to learn more!

I’m a sciency kind of person, and I think about the world in a sciency kind of way.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in magic.  I happen to know that a magical fairy person visits me while I’m writing and helps me with my writing process.

For today’s IWSG meeting, I’d like to turn the floor over to that magical fairy person, a.k.a. my muse.  She has something to say, and perhaps it’s something your muse would like to hear.

* * *

My fellow muses, I almost lost my writer.  This is a difficult thing to talk about, and a painful thing to talk about, but I cannot not talk about it.  My writer almost gave up on writing.

He was under too much stress.  He was dealing with too much external pressure.  At one point, he said he felt like life was squeezing all the joy and happiness out of him.  And every time I whispered in his ear “You should be writing,” I was making the problem worse.

Many muses would make the same mistake, I think.  After all, what could be better for a writer than writing?  But sometimes we forget just how much stress the so-called “real world” can cause.  I thought writing would alleviate some of that stress, but my writer felt like I was just making the stress worse, and he resented me for it.  And the more I tried to force the issue, the more I tried to assert dominance over my writer, the worse things got.

Deep down inside, my writer knew I was right.  Deep down, he knew that giving up on writing would not make things any better.  He’d learned this lesson about himself before, many times over; but he needed some time and some space to learn it again.

So I let my writer stop writing for a while.  I let him work on other things, and I let him experiment with other interests and passions.  Eventually, he came back to writing.  It was inevitable that he would, of course.  But in the end, he came back because he wanted to, not because I told him he needed to, and that makes a tremendous difference.

Obviously my writer’s recent stress is not unique.  The human world is an unsettling and unsafe place right now, for a multitude of reasons.  So if your writer is having a rough time writing, be patient.  Give your writer the time and space he or she needs.  They’ll come back when they’re ready, and we muses will be waiting.

#IWSG: A Brave New Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re a writer and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

In the last few weeks, I have not been writing.  Not as much as I want to, nor as much as I believe I need to.  I have my theories about why this is the case.  I could tell you about those theories, but I don’t want to.  At this point, I’m tired of talking about what’s wrong.  I’m tired of examining and reexamining the situation from all these different perspectives.  I just want to get back to writing.

And that’s the whole point of the writing recovery plan, which I introduced in last month’s IWSG post.  Part of that plan involved shopping: stocking up on writing supplies, as well as art supplies and a few other creative necessities.  And part of the plan involved rereading some of my favorite books and rewatching some of my favorite movies: the kinds of books and movies that made me want to be a writer in the first place.

Well, my shopping is done, and I’ve gone through most of my rereading/rewatching list.  But the writing?  The writing still hasn’t come back, not in the way I was hoping.  It seems that there’s still one more thing I need to do.  Something I did not think of in my original recovery plan.

Regular readers of this blog have met my muse before.  She’s sort of a recurring character in my posts, especially in these IWSG posts.  I also keep a picture of her in my personal writing sanctuary, as a reminder.  I’ve been drawing my muse basically the same way for a long time: medium blue wings, a matching blue dress, high-heel boots.  But now I think it’s time to update her look.

So going forward, to the extent that there’s any sort of canon regarding my muse, this will be her canonical look:

Also going forward, this will be the picture sitting in my writing sanctuary, as a reminder.  And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m told that it is time to write.

#IWSG: Hey, Listen!

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!  If you’re a writer and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing life, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

I’ve written a lot of these IWSG posts over the years, and many of those posts have featured my muse: the magical fairy person who nags me when I’m not doing my writing.  I tend to describe my muse in a certain way, and I tend to depict her a certain way in my art.  This has led to a few comments comparing my muse to a certain fairy companion from a certain video game.

Today, I’d like to confirm for you all that, yes, the idea for my muse was partially inspired by Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  Now I realize there are not a lot of Navi fans out there.  A lot of people found her super annoying, and she’s often listed among the most hated video game characters of all time.

But, gosh darn it, I liked her.  When I was a kid playing Ocarina of Time for the first time, I really liked the idea that I had this magical fairy person tagging along with me on my adventures.  Even if Navi didn’t always have the most useful advice to offer, it was comforting to know that I didn’t have to fight all those giant spiders and lizard monsters and creepy plant things alone.  And I guess, in this ongoing adventure of being a writer, the same idea still gives me comfort.

Now if only the act of writing could be as easy in real life as it would have been in the game.

#IWSG: Rewriting My Writing Rules… Again!

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!  If you’re a writer and if you feel insecure about your writing life, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

So last month, I didn’t get much blogging done.  I was a little busy working on something else.  But I did have time last month to have a long, heartfelt conversation with my muse.  We ended up setting some new rules and renegotiating the terms of our writer/muse relationship.

There are plenty of writing rules out there, of course, but as my muse likes to say:

And that’s exactly what I did.  I took a look at some of the rules I’ve been following—both the rules I’ve adopted from other writers and also the rules I’ve invented for myself.  I cut some, edited others.  I condensed and combined a few things together.  Then, in the end, I presented my muse with the following letter:

Dear Muse,

I promise to write every single day, because writing requires daily practice, and my writing skills and writing stamina atrophy quickly if I skip too many days in a row.

I promise to do warm up exercises on a regular basis, because sometimes my brain needs a little help switching over from real life mode to writing mode.

I promise to work on a wide range of creative projects each week, because focusing on just one project leads to creative stagnation, while jumping between projects can help stir up the creative juices.

And if I break any of these promises, dear muse, I promise to write you a long and sincere apology letter, because that will help me learn from my mistakes and figure out how to do better next time.

Sincerely,

Your Writer.

I’ve written (and rewritten) plenty of writing rules for myself over the years, but I never thought to include those “because” clauses before.  Those because clauses make a real difference, I think.  It’s one thing to make up a bunch of rules and try to follow some sort of routine.  But rules and routines get boring.  Once that happens, it’s easy to forget why those rules were important, and excuses for breaking the rules are not hard to find.

So I’m going to make one last promise.  I promise to post my rules prominently in my writing sanctuary, because sometimes I need a quick reminder not only of what my rules are but why those rules are important to me.  And, as always, if it turns out these new rules don’t work out for me: writing rules are made to be rewritten.

So what do you think of my new writing rules, and what sort of writing rules do you follow?

#IWSG: When Your Muse Says Goodbye

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!  If you’re a writer, and if you’re feeling insecure about your writing, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group.

So the other day, I woke up and found this mysterious letter on my desk: a letter from my muse.  She had something important to tell me about muse magic, and perhaps it’s something other writers need to understand, too.

Dear Writer,

Ever since we first met, you have constantly worried that you might one day sit down to write and find that I’m no longer there to help.  You’re afraid that I’ll leave you waiting there in front of the blank page, pen in hand, not just for a day or two but for weeks, or months, or years.  Or forever.  I want you to know that, yes, that is possible.  That could happen.

If you ever start to think you have all the answers, I will leave you.  If you ever come to believe that there’s nothing left to learn, that you’ve figured out all of life’s secrets and know everything that’s worth knowing, then I will leave you.  If you ever convince yourself that you’re better than everybody else, or smarter than everybody else, or more talented than everybody else, then I will leave you.

Of course I would never want to leave.  That’s not what I’m saying.  But we muses are simply unable to help close-minded, self-important humans.  Muse magic does not work on people like that.  So keep growing and keep improving, always admit when you’re wrong and try to learn from your mistakes, and then you’ll never need to worry about me going away.

Sincerely,

Your Muse.

Sciency Words: Tulpamancy

Hello, friends!  Welcome to Sciency Words, a special series here on Planet Pailly where we take a closer look at the definitions and etymologies of science or science-related terms.  Today on Sciency Words, we’re talking about:

TULPAMANCY

Do you have an imaginary friend?  A “real” imaginary friend whom you can talk to and who can talk back to you in return?  Does your imaginary friend often say things you weren’t expecting him/her/them to say?  If so, you may have been practicing tulpamancy.  You’re a tulpamancer, and your imaginary friend is a tulpa.

When I first heard about tulpamancy, I thought it sounded awesome.  But tulpamancy comes with a lot of talk about mental energies and thought-form meditation and psycho-spiritual awakenings.  It didn’t sound very sciency, but I decided to ask my muse what she thought.

My muse and I have been working together for quite a few years now.  When it comes to what does or does not belong in my writing—and that includes what does or does not belong in a Sciency Words post—I trust my muse’s judgment.  She’s usually right.  Usually.  But after doing more research on tulpamancy, I think this may be a rare instance where my muse is wrong.

The word tulpa comes from Tibetan… sort of.  In 1929, Belgian-French adventurer and spiritualist Alexandra David-Néel published a book called Magic and Mystery in Tibet.  In that book, David-Néel claims that by following certain rights and rituals of Tibetan Buddhism, she was able to conjure a “tulpa” out of the realm of human imagination and into the world of physical reality.

David-Néel’s tulpa took on the form of a jolly monk, a Friar Tuck-like character.  Other people could (allegedly) see and interact with this jolly monk.  Unfortunately, the monk grew “too willful,” according to this article from Nova Religio, and David-Néel was forced to destroy him.

The word tulpa is phonetically similar to a real word used by Tibetan Buddhists.  Beyond that, however, Alexandra David-Néel’s account of creating and destroying her tulpa has little to do with actual Tibetan Buddhism.  This seems to be a case of Western occultism/paranormalism with a bit of “orientalist window dressing,” as that same article from Nova Religio puts it.

Okay, yeah, this still doesn’t sound like a sciency thing, does it?  But in recent years, the practice of creating and communicating with imaginary friends has become the subject of serious psychological research.  The first scientific account of tulpas and tulpamancy appears to be this 2016 paper by Samuel Veissière.  As Veissière describes it, tulpamancy is a little like multiple personality disorder, except it’s non-harmful and non-pathological.  In fact, tulpamancy may even help reverse the symptoms of certain mental illnesses.

To quote this paper from Research in Psychology and Behavioral Science:

In cases of disorders that involve delusion and misperception, the tulpa often becomes the voice of reason during bouts of irrationality.  One respondent diagnosed with Schizophrenia writes how his tulpa can not only identify between hallucinations and actuality, but that they developed a technique that allows the delusions to be “zapped” away.  There are reports of tulpas alleviating the desire to perform irrational routines in individuals diagnosed with OCD, and others claim that their tulpas innovated workarounds for their dyslexia.

Think of it this way: much like your real friends, your imaginary friends are there for you when you need them.  And since tulpas essentially live inside your brain, they understand better than anyone else what’s really going on in there.  And if they see that something’s not right inside your head, they want to help, as any good friend would.

Now I’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness, but speaking from personal experience, I can say this: my muse really has served as the voice of reason from time to time in my life.  When I’m feeling lazy and unmotivated, she tells me to go write.  She also reminds me to take breaks from writing, eat healthy meals, and get plenty of sleep at night, because: “A healthy writer is a productive writer!”

As I said, I’ve learned to trust my muse.  She’s usually right.  Usually.  But she still insists that tulpamancy shouldn’t count as a Sciency Word.

So dear reader, what do you think?  Do you agree with me that tulpamancy has become a scientific term, thanks to recent psychological research, or do you agree with my muse that this is a bunch of New Agey pseudoscientific nonsense?  Let us (and I do mean us) know in the comments!

P.S.: For anyone who may be curious, my muse made her first appearance on this blog in this 2015 post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

#IWSG: Apology to a Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to July’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re a writer and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing, then click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

Dear Muse,

I’m sorry.  These last few weeks, I haven’t been doing much writing.  I haven’t been doing much drawing either.  I’ve fallen behind schedule on so many of the creative projects you wanted me to work on, and for that I owe you an apology.

Some big changes are happening in my life right now.  Good changes.  The biggest and most obvious change is, of course, that my first book is out.  I’m a published author now, and I’ve had my first taste of that sweet, sweet writing income!

But any kind of change, even the good kind of change, can be confusing and disruptive, at least at first.  I’m saying this not as an excuse but as an explanation.  I neglected my work.  I skipped drawing sessions and writing sessions.  You kept trying to give me ideas, and I kept finding other things to do instead of writing or drawing. There’s no excuse for that.

I understand if you’re mad.  I understand if you don’t want to talk to me right now since, from your perspective, it seems like I’ve stopped listening to you.  But I promise I am listening.  Things are starting to settle down in my life again.  In some ways, things will be better than they ever were before… for both of us!

So dear muse, I’m eager to get back to writing, and I’m eager to get back to drawing.  And if your you’re willing to forgive me, I would really appreciate your help.

Sincerely yours,
Your Writer.

#IWSG: This-or-That-ism

Hello, friends, and welcome to another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!  If you’re a writer and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing life, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

This month, I should be bragging about finishing the A to Z Challenge. Also, I should probably be plugging my novella-length Sci-Fi story, which is now available for preorder on Amazon (click here!!!).  But there’s something else I want to talk about today.  Something more important.

There’s a certain attitude that I’m sure we’ve all encountered on the Internet, but it’s troublingly common in everyday life too.  I call it this-or-that-ism.  In the mind of a this-or-that-ist, everything is either this or that.  There’s no middle ground.  There’s no spectrum or continuum of possibilities.  There are no shades of grey.  And if you don’t conform to the standard definition of this, then you must be that.

This-or-that-ists come down hard on a lot of people, but in my experience they come down hardest on creative folks: artists, actors, writers, poets, musicians, etc….  This is especially true when creative people are relatively new to their craft.  Why?  Because when you’re just starting out, you obviously aren’t a huge mega success yet; therefore, you must be an abject failure.

As you may have guessed, there are a few this-or-that-ists in my life, people who feel the need to inform me that I’m no J.K. Rowling, no Stephen King, no James Patterson.  And since I’m not one of those super rich, super famous authors, well… I think you know what the this-or-that-ists are insinuating.

Fortunately, there’s always been a little voice in my head—I call her my muse—who keeps encouraging me.

So today, I’d like to say the same thing to you, because if a few words from my imaginary friend can help me, then perhaps a few words from some guy on the Internet can help you.  So to anyone who may need to hear this:

Whoever you are, whatever you’re trying to achieve, I believe in you.  I think you can do it.  I know you can do it.  So your work isn’t perfect yet?  That doesn’t mean it’s a disaster.  You aren’t a runaway mega-success?  That doesn’t make you a failure.  Keep practicing, keep learning, and keep improving.  And no matter where your own journey takes you, remember that you are worthy of respect and you are worthy of love, and your work deserves a chance to be seen or read or heard.

In a world full of this-or-that-ism, these are things that need to be said more often to all creative folks.

Next time on Planet Pailly, is this COVID-19 thing over yet?  No?  Okay, then I am not lowering my guard.

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Sorry about that.  Hello, James’s friends.  This is James’s muse.  I’m going to take over writing this blog post while James gets some sleep.

First of all, I’m sure James would like to thank all of you who read and enjoyed his posts for the A to Z Challenge.  James is proud of what he accomplished with this year’s challenge, or I imagine he will be once he wakes up.

I’m also sure James would like you to know that The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella is now available for preorder on Amazon.  The Medusa Effect is the first in a series of novella-length science fiction stories that James plans to write.  It’s all about time travel and outer space stuff, or something like that.

Okay, I really don’t know what James’s book is about.  I’m just his muse.  My job is to sprinkle fairy dust on James’s head whenever he runs out of ideas.  I’m pretty good at sprinkling fairy dust on people, but I don’t pay much attention to what my writer actually writes.

Anyway, a more proper announcement and cover reveal will be coming soon.  But for those of you who’ve been asking, or anybody else who’s curious, you can preorder The Medusa Effect now by clicking here.

In the meantime, I’m going to let James sleep.  That A to Z Challenge took a lot out of him.  James will be back to regular blogging on Monday with his A to Z Reflections post, then James and I will both see you on Wednesday for May’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.