Second Guessing the Muse By Ruth Schiffmann

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The last time I argued with my muse, it landed me in a writing slump for months. I hid it well, bringing resurrected pieces to my weekly writing group, and sharing market news and contest announcements with fellow writers in lieu of new stories, articles or essays.

To my family, I appeared productive while piddling away hours checking emails, joining discussion forums and researching markets in an attempt to jump-start my sluggish creative muscle. I was immersed in my craft – if not in the throes of a new story.

Normally, my muse and I get along. I marvel at the words, worlds and wonders that play out on my pages. My muse does all the work and I accept all the credit. It’s a nice little arrangement – until my inner censor reared her head in disapproval of a piece of flash with an unexpected (even to me), sordid twist. It was one of those pieces that wrote itself, and surprised me when I reached the end. But inner censor would have no part of it. While muse sat on one shoulder in black, admiring our work, critic sat on the other, adorned in white, shaking her head in disapproval. It was her wagging finger that I couldn’t ignore.

One night, while creativity lay dreaming up new plots, I reworked the flash, convincing myself that this was the right thing. I had triumphed. Said piece lay in altered state, just as my conscious mind wanted it. But it wasn’t long before the muse caught on and began withholding creative favors. For months I lived in writers’ limbo, sure that this lull was part of the cycle. Creativity would be circling back around any day now.

When blank pages haunted me, I read another writers’ magazine and waited for my muse to come crawling back, the next bright, shiny story idea tucked between its legs. The articles I read had titles like Crank the Creativity, Find your Passion, and Writers’ Wonderland. They made me long for the joy that writing freely from the heart brings. They made me wish I had realized sooner: sometimes the good guys wear black. They convinced me to make nice with my muse. I pulled up the story my censor had convoluted, then pressed hard on the delete key. I brought back the words that had given life to the story. My muse was appeased. I was true to my craft and the lines of inspiration reopened. The muse flowed with months of pent up ideas rushing towards blank pages.

Back in writers’ bliss, I wonder how I could have been so stubborn, why I held out so long. Then I remember how my daughter once explained her four-year stint working in a fast food restaurant to the twisted loyalty a kidnap victim has towards their kidnapper. Yeah, it’s something like that. But the next time my censor tries to kidnap the muse, instead of tightening the knot in the gag, or putting up the ransom, I’ll plan the rescue mission.

Ruth Schiffmann is enjoying her time in writer’s bliss. She’s hoping to stay for awhile. Whether her muse whispers flash fiction, poetry, short stories, or articles into her ear, she faithfully puts them down on paper. With over fifty sales since they made up, she considers their partnership a success. To read more, visit http://www.RuthSchiffmann.com.

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