Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Muse Loyalty

A funny thing happened on my self-imposed writing vacation.

As most of you know I decided about a week or so ago to step away completely from my work-in-progress and my do-it-myself crash course in self-publishing and take a much needed mental break. I had been feeling overwhelmed with information and my to-do list was growing exponentially with every class I took and every book I read. The idea of self-publishing my book had started to lose its shine and was looking more and more like an insurmountable wall of impossibility. I was quickly losing my nerve and had realized that my inner critic’s voice was the only one that I was hearing any more.

So I stopped.

No writing, no editing, no researching. No classes, no googling, no brainstorming. I stopped reading books on the more technical aspects of writing, put away my stack of reading material about formatting e-books and marketing strategies. I didn’t even allow myself to flip through the library of books I have accumulated that deal with publishing, querying, and how to use social media as a tool in my arsenal.

It took a few days, but I was finally able to allow myself to relax and sink into fiction – for fun! Now there is a novel idea! (no pun intended!) 🙂 I realized that while I always seem to have at least one fiction book out on the coffee table, I haven’t let myself get lost in one in quite some time. I am a reader, always have been, and I get downright squirrelly when I don’t read fiction for a period of time. Part of the reason I was starting to feel so stressed and unhinged must have been stemming from my lack of fiction in my life! All work and no play – you know what I’m talking about!

Now, I must admit that I was a little nervous about declaring a work stoppage on the writing front. Would I lose momentum? Would I be able to start again, or would the idea of it make me run screaming in the other direction? Would I forget everything I have crammed into my brain in the last three months about the business of writing? I had reached the point where I had to take the chance. Continuing to push myself and fill every waking minute with research and new information was causing me to feel a little violent. 🙂

So this morning, over a bowl of cereal and my second cup of coffee, I was reading The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa, and it suddenly hit me! Even though I truly had not been thinking about it, an idea for how to solve a problem with my novel sprang to mind. It was a niggling little issue that had been bothering me since the first words were typed into my Alphasmart NEO on November 1, 2007, my first NaNoWriMo, and suddenly, out of the blue, an answer arrived shimmering in its very simplicity.

I sat there, a little stunned, and grabbed my iPad. Despite my promise not to research, I had to do a quick google to put the icing on this little aha moment. After a brief consultation with my husband on the matter, I was satisfied with the solution and made a note to myself to address it in my novel when I took up the pen again.

I went back to my book and my breakfast, and Wham! I suddenly had a thought as to how to address a major plot problem in NaNo 2008, a novel that I honestly have not given a thought to in over four years. Yes, I put in the required 50,000 words that month to “win,” but that novel was a mess. There was something major missing from the story and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Not to mention, as anyone who has ever done NaNo will tell you, there really is not time during the month to contemplate plot holes. Solutions either come to you on the fly or they wait for post-NaNo editing. Needless to say, by the end of the month, my second novel had meandered all over the place and I was pretty sick of it. So I filed it away and haven’t taken it out since.

So suffice it to say, I was a bit surprised that I was having writerly visions about how to fix it. I hadn’t even considered that novel as the next in line to be edited! So, here I go, writing some notes and tucking them away for the day I start revisions on book two.

I do have a point in all this rambling… Conventional wisdom will tell you that you need to show up every day, plant your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard, and write in order to lure the muse to meet you. This is true to a point. You can’t get the work-in-progress in progress if you don’t show up and do the work. But I just learned a very important lesson.

Sometimes, the muse is there, hanging out in the background, drinking a warrior-sized, skinny chai latte and waiting for you to start paying attention. In the last three months, I had stopped all creative writing while I focused on the business aspect and I was feeling decidedly UN-creative. I felt like I had lost that muscle. I thought the muse had deserted me. But really, she was just hanging out, buried under a lot of busy work, waiting for me to get back to work on the most important part of the whole process.

My muse is very loyal, but she needs to be fed properly. She cannot thrive on caffeine and sugar alone. 🙂 My work-in-progress vacation allowed me to step away from the project. But I did not step away from what feeds me, and in turn my muse – fiction and words. I immersed myself in novels, wallowing in three a week. I continued to read blogs that inspire me and stoke the fires of my imagination. I didn’t stop feeding my muse; I just allowed her time to break out of the mess of research that she was trapped under. And now, here she is, right by side, tossing ideas into the spring-time breeze for me to catch. 🙂

Your muse is loyal, too. What have you done lately to feed her?


  1. This is true. Hard work is great but sometimes you have to get up and walk away and do something else. I know when I am programming and run across problems, it helps to just go watch TV or read a book. When I come back, I am always like, why didn’t I see that before?

    • Isn’t it a relief to know that our creative brain won’t let us down if we let it rest occasionally!? 🙂

      • charliebritten

        Well done! I identify with what you say a lot because I’ve been forcing it out for a long time. In my case, I think it’s because I’m doing an overwhelming day job which leaves me too tired to write and my solution is to retire in just over two years time (when I can afford to). Keep going with that novel, Cheryl.

        • Thanks Charlie! The day job can really wipe me out too. I feel like I can’t think of a single imaginative thing when I get home and finally sit down. I think the key is to just start writing something, anything, and somewhere along the way the ideas start coming.

  2. Great to hear that the break worked honey 🙂 I think sometimes we really need it!


    • Vacations are good in all areas of our lives, even if it is just a one day time out. 🙂

  3. phoenixrisesagain

    HI there congratulations what a brilliant experience :-). I am so happy for you!!!! I usually take out an hour or so per week to go somewhere and take pictures. Just for fun. Just to find lovely objects or just plain crazy. That is one thing I learned from Julia Cameron’s “The Artists way”: You need some time off every now and then just to play around. That makes you hear your muses voice. Have just bought the book on my kindle as it felt like I needed it. This week I can’t do it as I caught another cold and am coughing my guts out. But as I could not sleep most nights I took some decisions on my blogging to get organised and get more time for the creative writing. My new place is here

    • I really enjoyed The Artist’s Way. I have her other books too – Vein of Gold, Walking at his World, Blessings, The Sound of Paper. All very inspiring! Can’t wait to check out your new consolidated blog!!

      • phoenixrisesagain

        HI Cheryl thanks very much. I will get the others as well but right now I just work myself through this one again 🙂


  1. Care and Feeding of a Muse | Catching Fireflies

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