Hell Yes I Wrote That Book

First, go read this article.

Read it?  Isn’t she awesome?  That, my friends, was a post made by Catherynne M. Valente, whom I’d never had the pleasure of hearing about until the link to this article started flying around Twitter the other day.  Turns out she’s a fellow U of Edinburgh alum.  If nothing else, she’s freaking brilliant, attacking this ludicrous idea–apparently initially propagated by Plato–that writers are merely vessels waiting to be filled by the Muse.


As she says (my favorite quote from the whole article):

Hell yes, I wrote that book. Not my characters. Not my muse. Me. Every verb, every article. I’ve got the carpal tunnel to prove it.

Which is not to discount imagination or inspiration.  It exists.  But you can’t just sit around waiting on it if you want to finish stuff.  It IS incredibly hard work.  It’s frustrating work.  Sometimes I feel like I’m back in the therapist’s chair waiting for a difficult patient to finally open up and tell me what the hell is going on, except instead of my clients, it’s my characters on the metaphorical couch.  Oh how’s that for an analogy?  Building Rapport With Your Characters.  Maybe I’ll write a post on that later.  :makes note:

But seriously.  We have enough idiocy to fight among the general populace who, between awestruck idolization and queries of “I’ve got this idea for a book…how do I get published?”, seem to maintain this notion that writing is not work, that it’s somehow a hobby and why don’t we all go out and get a real job?  I know I’ve definitely faced that kind of attitude from my mother.  With her it’s not so much that writing is not a respectable profession but that it is not a “reasonable” profession.  Both she and my father took this pat me on the head “oh that’s nice honey, but why don’t you get a business degree or become a lawyer?”  I’m not bitter.  I’ve just given up on them ever getting it.  My husband gets it.  My mother in law (best one on God’s green earth) gets it.  If not for them, for the support of all my fellow writers and friends, maybe I’d have bought into the myth.

But I’m under no illusions.  I know the path I’ve chosen isn’t easy.  I’m still going into it with my eyes wide open.

6 thoughts on “Hell Yes I Wrote That Book

  1. That truly is an awesome article. Yes, I may talk about my “muse”, but that is to be read as subconscious. Yes, I may talke about my “characters,” ditto.

    Really, it’s all compartmentalization, but I certainly do not hold with the idea that my self wanders off and does something else while various other me’s take over the hands. Sometimes I’m surprised by what I write, but I’m also surprised about what I happen to think about, what emotions I feel, and what my dreams. It doesn’t mean that any of it isn’t inside my head.

  2. I don’t know that there is anything that drives me crazier than when a writer says they can’t write because their muse isn’t cooperating. Hello? Ancient Greek myth has nothing to do with the fact you can’t write. Or when they say their characters have taken over or gotten away from them. Uh…unless you are schizophrenic, those voices in your head are under your control because they are you. They are voluntary, you control them. Anyway, as you say, writing is a difficult road which is paved with more hard work than anything.

    1. I’m still one of those people who will talk about my characters not cooperating. For me, I guess it’s a specific type of writer’s block. Sometimes I’m having trouble with the words themselves. Sometimes it is very character specific.

  3. Critic/Muse. Right brain/left brain. Analytics/creativity. Two sides of the same coin, both NECESSARY to write.

    Has nothing to do with the Muse “writing the book for me.” Has nothing to do with “oh, the chick in the toga didn’t show up, guess I can’t write today.”

    For writers, a lot of people seem to take the term “Muse” WAY too literally.

    1. I think there’s a lot of sort of mythos that goes along with writing that really discounts all the blood, sweat, and tears side of things. It’s all sort of unnecessarily focused on the 1% inspiration portion, as if there’s nothing else but that. But yeah, I totally agree, that BOTH sides are necessary to writing.

  4. Isn’t it interesting that in 2013 this is still a topic of interest and debate and that you and Susan just blogged about it and the Ted Talk for the woman, can’t remember her name, OLE! Wonder if this will ever be settled…probably not.

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