The Golden Heart, The Void & My Hussy Muse
by Our Guest on September 3rd, 2009

Golden Heart finalist Sharon Lynn Fisher (www.sharonlynnfisher.com) writes sci-fi romance and battles writerly angst with baked goods, Irish tea, and champagne (not always in that order).

I live in Seattle. There used to be this spooky old abandoned school next to I-90 East, and every time I passed it I thought how sad it was that someday, someone was going to tear it down and build condos. Because the place just oozed personality. It looked authoritarian and cranky.

But, lo and behold, the city held onto it and transformed it into the Northwest African American Museum, and it looks pretty much the way it always has, without the boarded up windows.

I took the following photo this past spring, and over the course of this post I’ll explain how the picture – or rather the process of taking it – helped defeat a particularly nasty case of writer’s block.

fisherimage11

Just before my birthday this year, I found out my science fiction romance manuscript, Ghost Planet, was a finalist for RWA’s Golden Heart award. Shortly before that, I had signed with an agent. Soon we’ll be submitting to editors. This is a terrific place to be.
But it’s also a hard place to be. A celebratory, hopeful sort of limbo. All your dreams tied up in a much-loved manuscript you are DYING to share with other people, if someone will pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top-and-did-I-mention-I-will-name-a-child-after-you give it a chance.

With each step in the writing and publishing process, there is waiting. And more waiting. And extra helpings of waiting. The best thing you can do to maintain your sanity is – buy whole cases of wine so you get the 10% discount. But that’s not so good in the long-term, so eventually you have to sit down in the freakin’ chair and start again.

Most people, I think, write their first manuscript(s) in a vacuum. You follow your passion and write what you feel because that’s what it takes to produce a great story. From the time you e-query your very first agent, you are no longer a virgin. Really, from the time you start reading publishing industry blogs – which is hopefully long before you e-query your first agent – you are no longer a virgin.

Your head starts getting filled up with stuff about trends and marketability and what editors are and aren’t buying and OMG DROP EVERYTHING AND WRITE STEAMPUNK NOW … And pretty soon every idea that comes to you sounds like something someone else would write. You notice your muse has started collecting moving boxes.

The thing is, you STILL have to *follow your passion and write what you feel because that’s what it takes to produce a great story*. How do you do that when your head is full of all this educational but distracting noise?

I researched writer’s block for days. (HOW did we survive before Google and Wikipedia?) I wrote 30 pages of a new story before I realized the heroine was the same person as my last heroine, with shorter hair. I stared out the window. I shed tears. I got so desperate I made myself try freewriting … and it worked.

I’m not endorsing freewriting per se (mine was peppered with four-letter words and self-abuse) – but when you’re in that cold, dark creative void, you MUST do something to get out of your normal head space. Draw sing walk travel knit dance meditate. Make cupcakes. Eat them until you’re sick. Read other people’s books.

For me, freewriting led to the vaguest spark of an idea, and an intriguing setting – a cranky old ghost of a building I’d passed a hundred times on I-90. Armed with digital camera, I set out to find my characters, and the rest of my story.

fisherimage2

I took a zillion pictures, playing with light and angles to explore the moods of my setting. I ate catfish and cornbread in the little cafeteria. I talked to the cook about the bright, collage-style artwork hanging in the dining room. I strolled through the museum exhibit not really seeing any of it, because in my world – in the new world my brain was creating – the building was going to serve a very different purpose.

When I pulled out of the parking lot on that sunny day in April, my whole outlook had changed. Everything I encountered seemed to fuel this new spark, from the deserted chapel in the park across the road, to the random CD playing in my car. I had a vision of a man stretched across a narrow bed, out of place and time. Dying. Yet still lethally dangerous to the stranger hovering over him.

That unreliable hussy of a muse was back. (I love you, sweetheart, but you’re gonna be the death of me.)

31 comments to “The Golden Heart, The Void & My Hussy Muse”

  1. 1

    Hi :)
    Thank you for sharing.
    I absolutely love the picture of the school and the tree. You have a great eye!
    I’m glad you defeated the Block.
    Love and best wishes,
    @RKCharron
    xoxo


  2. 2

    @RKCharron
    I am very much an amateur photographer, but enthusiasm counts for something, right? Glad you liked the photo, and thanks for stopping by!


  3. 3

    Fabulous photos and great article, Sharon. I especially love the one with the old tree root in the shot. It frames the character of that old structure in a very interestingl way.

    From personal experience, I know writer’s block can be a very frustrating thing, but it’s amazing what changing your perspective or looking at things from a different angle can bring you in terms of inspiration.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and those remarkable photos. :)


  4. 4

    Sharon,

    What an inspiring great post. Loved it! Your interest me in your next story with the snipet. Will the story be set here on Earth?

    I do free writing when I’m staring at a frozen cursor. I never thought of taking pictures to spark the fire. But you’re right, experiencing the world does help. I’m going to give this a try. Thanks.

    And I loved you named your muse, Hussy. LOL. So fits.

    Wishing you a big contract soon.

    Autumn Jordon
    http://www.autumnjordon.com


  5. 5

    Sharon:

    What a wonderful post! And I think you hit on something SO important which is the writer’s need to stay fresh in our perspective on life.

    I’m always amazed where the oddest ideas pop from and – almost always – they’re NOT when I’m trying to dream up plots and story ideas!!

    Addison


  6. 6

    Great post, and best of luck placing your SFR. We’re rooting for you!

    OMG DROP EVERYTHING AND WRITE STEAMPUNK NOW

    Lol! I should steal that for the title of my next steampunk post. :mrgreen: Still, I wouldn’t sweat it. As awesome as steampunk is, there’ll still be plenty of room for other stories. Okay, maybe just one or two, but you know what I mean! ;-)


  7. 7

    What wonderful pictures! And a great story too. Sometimes “butt in chair” might be what we need to write, but it’s not what we need to be inspired.

    I have a picture of a woman wearing a red silk dress that inspired me while I was writing my book. I didn’t take the photo though. Good luck with the submissions!


  8. 8

    Great post, Sharon! Sorry. This might be a double posting for me. The other went into cyberspace I think.

    Not only did you inspire yourself, but you inspired me too. After reading this, I put on my shoes and went walking into the morning haze. It was a wonderful experience. I came back inside and wrote two pages. You started my day in a wonderful way. Thanks, AJ


  9. 9

    Wonderful post! It’s so easy for writers to forget to get out of the house and be part of the world around them. Thanks for reminding us to look for inspiration in unexpected places.


  10. 10

    Great post, Sharon. Your insight is right on the spot. Too many outside forces can totally drag us down. You did an amazing job with the photos. I love the gnarled tree roots. I can just imagine some ghost hanging out there. Good luck with the new story.


  11. 11

    Loved your post, Sharon. Also love the Seattle tidbits. I just returned from visiting family there and already miss it.

    I often find inspiration while driving, but I forget until I’m behind the wheel. There might be something about getting your body busy that awakens your creativity.


  12. 12

    How wonderful that those pictures helped you get back into the groove. They’re terrifically moody, and I can see how they would inspire your muse.

    I’ve experienced that post Golden Heart final period myself and I understand completely–all I can say is, hang in there, Sharon!


  13. 13

    Great post, Sharon!!! Love the pics and your story. Makes me want to write and I have to go to work. Freakin’ day jobs!

    Hugs,
    ~D~


  14. 14

    Wonderful photos, and a great post. You’re so right–it’s hard to keep your muse on track with so much distraction out there. You came up with an inspiring way to find your story.


  15. 15

    I wonder if you can steal a part of the muse’s soul by capturing her on film? Seems a fair trade since she steals our dreams.

    Thanks for the wonderful post!


  16. 16

    @Sisters of the Ruby Slipper – Addison, Jeannie, Autumn, Sherri, Jamie & Darynda

    So glad you enjoyed the photos and post. Thank you for dropping by, and for sharing your thoughts about inspiration! See you ladies on the list …


  17. 17

    @Laurie Green – Sometimes the hardest thing is making ourselves get out and do it. (So much more fun staring out the window sniffling ;D)

    Thanks for the linkage on Spacefreighters Lounge!


  18. 18

    Thanks, Allison! SO true – easy to stay hunched behind the computer, living in those fabulous worlds we create.


  19. 19

    Great post, Sister! Your ‘hussy of a muse’ cracked me up, but is all too much like other muses I know (being purposefully vague here lest I offend one of them!)


  20. 20

    Sharon, I’m sorry, when I was here earlier I forgot to say congratulations on finaling in the Golden Heart and landing an agent – no small feat! May your path to publication be smooth and speedy!


  21. 21

    Jessa, Annette & Sharon –
    Thanks, ladies, and thanks so much for inviting me over for the day!

    Whenever I’m trying to wrangle my muse, I can’t help but think of Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book. SMASH! Gotcha now!


  22. 22

    @Gwynlyn
    Crap, do you think they can hear us? Not that it matters. I’m pretty sure mine knows I’m afraid of her.

    @Allison
    Thanks very much! :-)


  23. 23

    Hello from another GH finalist…from Bremerton WA. Love the pictures.


  24. 24

    What a totally cool post! I absolutely love the pictures and the inspiration. Thanks for reminding me of ways to wake up my muse!


  25. 25

    Great post! Best of luck finding a home for GHOST PLANET.

    [...]Sharon Lynn Fisher (GHOST PLANET) will be guest blogging at Silk & Shadows[...]


  26. 26

    @Kelly F – Ah, a fellow Washingtonian (did I make up that word?) and a Ruby Slipper Sister on top of that – thank you for dropping by!

    @Danniele – Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed the post and photos.


  27. 27

    Great pictures, Sharon. It’s funny where we get out inspiration. Mine has been as simple as my son’s homework or a conversation overheard at the mall. I find silence feeds my muse. Distractions are deadly. Most of my novels have been written from the front seat of my vehicle on my lunch hour. LOL It’s become such a habit, I will pick up my laptop and head out to my car when I’m home. Of course the husband thinks I’ve lost it, but it works. That familar eviroment gets the stories to churning. We do what we have to, to knock that story out of that stone block and make it art. For you it’s images. Framing and studying, for me, it’s my feet up on the dash and whatever radio station I chose.
    Dawn


  28. 28

    What a great story, Dawn! I can just imagine your neighbors wondering what is that woman doing sitting out in her car. I love it that your brain has gotten trained to recognize that as your creative place.


  29. 29

    @ Heather Massey …
    Whoa, I totally missed your comment up to now – I’m getting notifications but it just popped up for some reason. Weirdness.

    Anyhoo, thanks for the good wishes, and glad you enjoyed the post! (Also glad to know I’m not doomed cuz I gots no steampunk. :mrgreen: )

    Thanks for the linkage on The Galaxy Express!


  30. 30

    I don’t usually reply to posts but I will in this case, great info…I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!


  31. 31

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. :) I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, :)

    A definite great read..Jim Bean


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